By Rich Place
As Seth Wochensky sat in his office — a loose description given as the space is makeshift and routinely turns into the organization’s workshop space — he talked grants, construction plans, tax credits and more.
But Wochensky, executive director of Springville Center for the Arts, also talked programming, didn’t hide excitement about the Art’s Cafe and spoke at length about not losing sight of the organization’s overall mission in the midst of progress.
“All this complicated stuff I’m talking about aside, it’s really still about impact to the community,” he said during an interview last week. “At the end of the day, how can we make the best impact to this community?”
For sure, there’s been progress for years at Springville Center for the Arts — located at the corner of North Buffalo and Franklin streets downtown. But to the everyday community member, it’s almost been misleading; plastic continues to cover the windows at the Art’s Cafe on Main Street and there hasn’t been much difference to the exterior of the SCA’s building.
But that’s all about to change.
“A lot of the work is stuff that you just don’t see,” said Wochensky. “Money has been spent on big ticket items that are increasing the longevity of the building like heat, for example.”
At the Art’s Cafe, work continues on the inside of the establishment, as work has concentrated on electrical and plumbing, Wochensky said. And then there’s the building’s roof — a green space that is now accompanied by a penthouse, a room at the top of the stairwell that is nearly all windows. That work was just completed at the end of last year.
Now a few weeks into 2018, this year could arguably be one of the most visually productive years for SCA since its founding.
Most notably, the organization was recently awarded a $750,000 matching grant that will be used for two major aspects of its main building.
“There are a lot of details we don’t know yet,” Wochensky admitted. “It’s for this building — for an entrance addition to the theater and some additional outdoor work.” It’ll also be put toward some “intensive” work at the theater itself that will reverse its entire layout.
“It’s certainly good news and, in another sense, it’s terrifying news because it means we’ve got a lot of work to do to try and figure out how to match that grant,” he said. “It’s just an immense amount of planning to do.”
As Wochensky pulled out plans for the new entrance, which will be located to the building’s south, he noted those drawings were dated 2012, a testament to how long such a project has been in the works.
Now, it’s time to put a shovel in the ground, likely this spring, and get construction underway. It’s expected work on the entrance will be completed this year. Funding has already been raised to match that aspect of the grant.
“This is stuff we’ve been talking about for a long time period but now it’s a lot more real,” Wochensky said. “There’s a time clock ticking and suddenly you have to do it.”
The addition will feature two entrances — one off North Buffalo Street and another ADA-compliant entrance from the building’s parking lot — with a common room before entering the theater. It’ll also have offices; a much needed aspect, Wochensky said.
Plus, the work will allow SCA to show some visual progress to the community.
“That entrance will be nice because you’ll see some movement,” Wochensky said.
A future project will reverse the theater space, allowing for better basement access and improved accessibility, he said.
“We expect the match to come from a variety of sources,” Wochensky said about the grant. “We will do a lot of foundation outreach for regional and even maybe national foundations to see our next step. The good news for Springville is that we are not starting from scratch.”
Down the street, work continues inside Art’s Cafe that Wochensky said he anticipates opening this year.
For the next few months, work will continue to be behind the scenes as organizers work on a financing program that will allow the business to be a community-owned entity. That will be alongside physical labor that continues to take place there.
“We have continued to progress in the inside and we have been chipping away at things,” he said. “And we are really at the point now of waiting to pull the lever, the way I describe it, and really open up the floodgates for the remaining work.”
He reminded the community the building will be more than just a café, with artist residences and a workshop also at the location.
Work associated with the Art’s Cafe is also going to develop a management team that will be a relatively new concept to the area, he said.
“We will still have employees in the traditional sense, but these worker-managers are going to be really interested in this project,” he said. “We are trying to meet other people who are excited about the idea, want to get behind the project, want to get involved and might have the skill set that will link to something.”
All this work on the SCA’s two buildings is coordinated alongside its programming — including its major events like the Art Crawl on May 5 and the Gala on June 9.