Long-awaited renovations to begin at Lexington's Living Arts & Science Center

cgross@herald-leader.comJune 17, 2014 

The 45-year-old Living Arts & Science Center will see long-awaited renovations and the addition of a new building by summer 2015.

Construction is scheduled to begin shortly on the Lucille Caudill Little Discovery Center, a contemporary addition to the LASC's historic home. The Kinkead House, built in 1847 on the north end of Martin Luther King Boulevard, also will be renovated.

The "Imagine This Capital Campaign," charged with raising the necessary funding to kick off construction of the new building and renovation of the Kinkead House, recently reached $4.3 million. The campaign's goal is $5 million.

The LASC board of directors and staff held a celebratory groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday to thank donors and supporters of the campaign.

Harriet Bradley, chairwoman of the campaign, said $4.3 million is enough to build the new addition while continuing to raise money for a "cushion" $500,000 endowment, and finishing touches in landscaping. Bradley said raising the additional money won't be an issue or slow down the project.

The renovation and construction are scheduled to be completed in 12 to 14 months.

Heather Lyons, executive director of the LASC, said the center will work around the construction and plans to move forward with its full schedule of classes and other programs. Construction of the new building will be first; renovation of the current building will follow, Lyons said.

Bradley discussed the need for new technology, space and efficiency at the LASC.

"These kids are doing all kinds of things," she said. "Some are sculpting, some drawing and creating their own sketchbooks, and some are working with raw foods and vegan cooking. I thought, 'how cutting-edge is that?' But the fact is we don't even have a kitchen."

The new center will have a teaching kitchen, a planetarium, a digital art lab, an outdoor amphitheater and rooftop gardens. The nonprofit organization offers classes to children and adults, field trips, local exhibits and other community-based programs.

"Right now, our building is so crowded," Lyons said. "We have 8,000 kids coming in during the school year, and the general public can't come in because it's so full."

Lyons said the new building will fix the LASC's impending space problem.

In addition to the increase in space and expanded programming, Lyons wants to make sure LASC is accessible to students from all backgrounds.

The LASC awarded 313 scholarships to low-income students in 2013 and provides free after-school programs for five local at-risk elementary schools. Lyons said the LASC aims to have an open campus that removes barriers to educational opportunities.

Mary Nehring, who has taught for the LASC for 10 years, said she can't wait for the opportunities a new center will provide. With only one classroom having running water, she said, washing brushes or doing art projects can be difficult.

Nehring said the contrast of architecture between the historic Kinkead House and the new, contemporary building shows the change and metamorphosis of the center.

As the LASC grows from a 7,500-square-foot building to more than 18,500, board members and directors will wait anxiously.

"This is really about creating an open campus here in the middle of north Lexington that anyone can enjoy," Bradley said. "People are going to be blown away when they see this building."

Lexy Gross: (859) 231-3335. Twitter: @lexygross.

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