In keeping its commitment to the Lake Wales community, Polk State College will soon begin a series of essential renovations and upgrades to the historic Polk State College Lake Wales Arts Center.
The College in late 2011 accepted the title to the former Lake Wales Arts Center, renaming it the Polk State College Lake Wales Arts Center. The 12,200-square-foot site includes a structure built in 1927 as the Holy Spirit Catholic Church that is listed on the National Register of Historic places, and the Michael Crews Gallery building, which was added in 2000.
In exchange for the property located at 1099 State Road 60 East, Polk State assured the Lake Wales Arts Council that it would renovate and maintain the buildings with careful attention to preserving its historical features and character. Beginning this month, the College will move forward with those renovations, resulting in an enhanced and improved — but visually unchanged — Polk State College Lake Wales Arts Center.
“As the Lake Wales community saw with Polk State’s restoration of the JD Alexander Center, another historical landmark located in downtown Lake Wales, the College is a diligent steward of historic architecture. Our goal will always be to restore and renovate the Polk State Lake Wales Arts Center with unwavering kindness to the rich history that makes it such a precious feature of this community,” said Polk State President Eileen Holden.
The first round of work will address the exterior, and will include installing a new roof. In completing this portion of the project, the College will use the same Spanish-style tiles as those currently in use.
“There are multiple leaks in the building. The new roof will take care of those issues while also preserving the look of the building,” said Robbie Manikis, project engineer for planning and construction at the College’s Winter Haven campus.
The College will also oversee a nearly four-month process to restore approximately 12 stained-glass windows located in the former church. The windows, all distinguishing features of the building, were at some point insulated with plexiglass. The plexiglass caused a buildup of heat that damaged the bonding material used between each window’s individual pieces of glass.
The College will hire a team of stained-glass experts who will repair each window, ensuring that the original designs are preserved while restoring the integrity of the bonding material. To add future protection, the windows will be finished with a transparent glaze and wind-rated window glass will be installed on the exterior of the building.
“In the end, the windows will be better able to withstand time,” Manikis said.
Other exterior projects include:
- Repairing stucco and repainting in a color similar to the current shade
- Waterproofing the basement of the building
- Replacing broken sidewalks and handrails
- Restriping parking spaces and upgrading spaces to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements
- Installing a new exterior sign to reflect the name change
- Installing a new trash enclosure
- Adding new outdoor seating areas
- Landscaping improvements
Once exterior work is finished, the College will turn its attention to the interior of the building. This portion of the project will include asbestos abatement in the historic building’s basement and attic, as well as:
- Upgrading to new multimedia technology and wireless technology
- Repainting the interior and adding new furniture
- Upgrading restrooms and handrails to most current ADA codes
All restoration and renovation projects are scheduled to be finished by Jan. 2013, when the College plans to begin offering classes at the site. The site will also continue to house cultural and arts programming open to the public.
“Lake Wales is a community that values education and the arts. The renovations and restoration planned for the Polk State College Lake Wales Arts Center will better support both, creating an enhanced gathering place for the public and an inspiring place for our students to learn,” said Sharon Miller, provost of the Polk State Winter Haven campus and direct supervisor of Polk State’s Lake Wales operations.
The result of the work, Manikis said, will be an improved but aesthetically unchanged structure.
“It will be a feasible building for student and college use, but visitors and the public will notice little — if any — change. We’re giving the building new life,” he said.
Barbara Connor, president of the Lake Wales Arts Council board of directors, said she is excited for the renovations to begin.
“These repairs are things that the (LWAC) couldn’t afford but they are very much needed. The JD Alexander Center is beautiful, and we know this will be beautiful, too,” she said.
The LWAC board of directors unanimously agreed to transfer title of the building to Polk State in 2011 to maintain the viability of the facility and preserve community access to the structure and the array of cultural and arts events it offers.
The Polk State College Lake Wales Arts Center is now owned and operated by the Polk State College District Board of Trustees, with direction from an advisory board that includes six members appointed by the Polk State Trustees and five members appointed by the Arts Council.
The Lake Wales Arts Council will continue to organize the Lake Wales Arts Show, the Student Art Show, the Marilyn Newell Youth Music Festival, and Chorale, as well as other performances, exhibits or events at the Polk State College Lake Wales Arts Center.
The Lake Wales Arts Council was incorporated as a membership organization in 1972 and began raising funds to save and preserve the Arts Center in 1989. The renovated building opened to the public in 1991 as a site for arts and cultural events.