The long talked-about next phase of the Warehouse Arts District got underway Wednesday afternoon as Mayor Rick Kriseman, Warehouse Arts District Association president Mark Aeling and others broke ground for The Aresty School for Young Artists and the Frances McSwain Pruitt & J. Crayton Pruitt Arts Education Center.
The “groundbreaking” was purely ceremonial, as clearing and renovating the bones of the 3,000-square-foot former warehouse space has been ongoing. Making the repurposed old building code compliant, Aeling confessed, was a lengthy process.
Members of the Aresty and Pruitt families, other donors and several members of St. Petersburg’s city council and the WADA board donned hard hats and picked up shovels for the afternoon photo op.
At the speaker’s podium, Aeling – the artist whose MGA Sculpture Studios is a cornerstone of the Warehouse Arts District – talked about the significance of the new facility, which will include several classrooms and a spring-loaded dance floor. With room, he said, for growth and expansion.
“Here, we’ve been offering classes for artists to help them refine their business acumen, and we wanted to expand that into a broader sense of this community, and reflect more effectively the community that we represent,” Aeling said. “And the ground that we are on.
“Part of that means expanding the role of education into community-based classes, adult art classes, and also classes for at-risk youth, after school classes as well as summer programming. These are some of the things that are coming down the road as we finish the education space.”
After the ceremony, Aeling explained that the Education Center would accept students from “First grade through adult.”
As for a timeline, “Construction in earnest will begin in the next month or so, and we hope to have it completed by the end of summer,” he said. “Fall classes is our goal.”