The Contemporary Arts Center on 44 East Sixth Street plans a $1.1 million renovation of the Kaplan Hall lobby in the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art which will include a lounge space, café, and relocated welcome desk and gift store. Construction begins January 6, 2015 and will close the Kaplan Hall Lobby to visitors until it re-opens March 13th. Seventy percent ($760,000) of the budget has already been raised. Contemporary Arts Center Director Raphaela Platow says that she is “grateful for the donors who have stepped up and who see the value in creating a vibrant space that will connect better to the renewed energy of downtown Cincinnati.” The CAC will remain open but, during the time of construction, visitors will enter through the door next to the loading dock (also on 6thStreet). This temporary entrance will offer unprecedented and unique access for our guests to pivotal behind-the-scenes spaces of the institution. Admission to all visitors during construction will be free.
The CAC has been working with FRCH Design Worldwide on a renovation plan for the past year under the leadership of Paul Lechleiter, Chief Creative Officer and Partner, as well as Jim Stapleton, Vice President/Principal; both currently serve as CAC board members. They, along with former long-time CAC board member Jim Fitzgerald, Founder of FRCH Design Worldwide, worked diligently on this project and the company has donated almost all of their services to the CAC in kind.
In addition to FRCH Design Worldwide, other project partners include Janet Hill Lobby Renovation Project manager, Stewart Turnbull, President and Managing Partner of Turnbull Wahlert Construction, who serves as the General Manager at risk. A lobby task force with board members involved in architecture and design oversaw the project together with Raphaela Platow, Director of the CAC. In addition the entire staff of the CAC was involved in shaping the project from their particular point of expertise.
The idea of the lobby being a welcoming, social space has been a part of Platow’s vision from the moment she arrived, “Ever since I came here 7 years ago,” Platow said, “I’ve been thinking of ways to bring the community together in our Kaplan Hall lobby in a hospitable, artful way.” That vision will become a reality in January when demolition and construction begins. Changes will include moving the welcome desk so that staff can directly greet everyone who enters the building (currently it is off to the side near the large elevator). Additionally, the gift store will be moved to a central location and its stock will be turned into a more finely curated collection, highlighting the best in local, national and international artist and artisan-created items which cannot be found anywhere else in the city.
One of the most exciting features is a long-awaited café that will offer delicious coffee, tasty breakfasts, lunches and evening treats in the location where the gift store lives now. The Contemporary Arts Center is currently in final contract negotiations with a café partner whose approach to food and customer service reflects the CAC’s own mission. According to Platow, “We consider them artists in their own right. Their approach to food is to use the best ingredients and time honored skills in the kitchen to produce beautifully simple dishes. These culinary artists will serve beautifully prepared food among the exhilarating art created by contemporary artists which will exist around them.” The open layout of the café will transition to communal tables, intimate and generous seating areas, comfortable lounge chairs, oversize sofas, artistic lighting and of course an astonishing ongoing series of art installations that will make for a one of a kind experience in the city. New CAC hours will coincide with café hours and include late evening viewing and dining on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
The new lobby will feature newly commissioned artworks from three different artists and artist groups. Cincinnati’s own Matt Kotlarczyk will create two large scale, breathtaking chandeliers that resemble the natural phenomena of clouds and water. These two pieces will add a layer of dreamy reflection to the new lobby environment. Zaha Hadid, the famed architect of the current CAC building, envisioned the lobby as a lively, exciting, public space in Cincinnati. Platow says that “by reimagining the possibilities of the space now, more than 10 years after the building first opened, it will soon be that buzzing, welcoming place which invites people to make connections with others and with the art of our time.”
(Images courtesy FRCH Design Worldwide)