Give Now  »

A New Direction For An Old Building: The John Waldron Arts Center

For those who like to squeeze in an after-work pottery or figure drawing class, you may have been asking the question, "What's going to happen with the Waldron?" WFIU's Megan Meyer spoke with the Ivy Tech-John Waldron Arts Center's new artistic director, Paul Daily, to find out what the community can expect this year.

The Changing Role Of A Unique Building

Artworks profiled the ins and outs of the Waldron Arts Center last year, and a few changes have taken place since then.

"Ivy Tech owns the building," Daily says. "What that means is it is part of campus for Ivy Tech community College. We have two brand new signs on building that state it is Ivy Tech." You can see the new sign next time you are walking down Walnut in downtown Bloomington.

The city of Bloomington bought the building for $150,000 from the financially-strapped Bloomington Area Arts Counsel. After months of discussions, Ivy Tech eventually agreed to buy the Waldron back in April. Some of the conditions of the sale were that 70 percent of the space be used for arts and that the building will forever be named... the John Waldron Arts Center.

"I think this is a very unique building," Daily continues. "It's rare that there's a college building that it's encouraged that the community come in and use. So that's exciting for Ivy Tech and I think that's exciting for the community."

An Artists' Haven

Several community arts organizations that have developed relationships with the Waldron over the years became a little nervous about losing their access to performance and gallery space. Paul sets some of those fears to rest. "The artists are still encouraged to come to use the space for performing arts and visual arts," he says. However, there will be a certain priority for arts education over performance.

"There are a couple of groups that we have an educational partnership with, which means they have goals and a mission statement that is in line with Ivy Tech's, and that they want to do performances where they do not charge an entrance fee, so that it becomes more of an educational opportunity than a performance opportunity."

The Waldron functions as a sort of preperatory theater for some of IU's theater students. "For instance, Indiana University's Theater Department takes students out to New York for a showcase in front of casting directors and agents and they're going to do a trial run in the Fire Bay before they go out there. The Fire Bay is very much like a New York space, so it gives them that experience. The Dance Department at IU has a similar arrangement with us and the National Society of Arts and Letters."

The Waldron's New Look

Ivy Tech has already started updating the building's facilities: They're renovating the children's room so that it is larger and easier to use. Throughout the building they've been painting, putting in new floors, tearing down a few walls – and they're making a few purchases...

"We've bought some new equipment. The kilns apparently did not get as hot as they needed to. So we're replacing the two kilns with some new ones. They're going to be virtually identical, only they're going to be 30 years newer, so they'll work better. And we're moving where they're located right now. It's not exactly a safe location for them, so we're going to kind of seal them off in their own space, which will help for safety purposes."

Those kilns will be used for a type of ceramics class the Waldron has never, until now, been able to offer: a for-credit class for those seeking a college degree.

Just For Fun

Fortunately for those who aren't in college, the Waldron is still the place for people wanting to just take a class for fun. Paul explains how to register for these two types of classes.

"If they're looking for, as I said, the credit course, then they'll have to become a student at Ivy Tech. If they're looking for a non-credit course just to learn in their evenings how to make a pot, then they would go through the Center for Lifelong Learning." That's the program where art enthusiasts will go to sign up for classes.

"It's a program that Ivy Tech runs that encourages people of all ages to continue to educate themselves. We also have programs for children over the summer – the Ivy Arts Program – and that runs all year. And then we have the courses for adults in the evenings during the typical school year season."

Since Paul himself has a strong background in theater, should Bloomington expect more live theater from the Waldron?

"Certainly there's an inclination for me to want to encourage theater groups here, but I am happy to see all performing arts here. I want music here, I want dance here."

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From