The Prairie Arts Center received another $241,000 on Tuesday, when the city council unanimously approved two grants to help renovate the third floor.

In mid-June, a citizen’s advisory committee agreed to recommend the two grants for the center.

One grant of $175,000 comes from the city’s quality growth fund.

The other grant, $66,000 is for new gas furnaces for the third floor, from a Northwest Energy (the gas company) economic development fund.

Alan Erickson of the arts council told the council that the third floor will have classrooms for art instruction as well as a cancer survivors painting class supported by Great Plains Health, plus three art studios for rent, and a replica of the late Ted Long’s art studio, on permanent display.

Long was a nationally known painter and sculptor from North Platte.

Erickson said about half of the $1 million needed to renovate the third floor has been raised now, and he hopes fundraising will be finished next year, enough to complete the renovation of the historic 1913 building at Fifth and Jeffers.

Erickson said $2.6 million has been raised so far to renovate the basement, first and second floors, and the operation has no debts.


Change in approach

The grants are normally given to add jobs and economic activity to the community, but this one focuses more on improving the quality of life.

Gary Person of the Chamber and Development office told the council that those kinds of objections were voiced by the citizen’s advisory group, and because of the objections,  less money was recommended than the amount the arts council requested.

The Northwest Energy grant was reduced by one-third from the art council’s request of $100,000. The art council asked for $250,000 from quality growth funds, and received $175,000.

Person said in today’s highly competitive job market, communities have to offer a better quality of life to attract people and businesses.

“Most of us are realizing that,” he said.

Person said officials also face a similar decision in regard to restorations at the old Fox Theater/Neville Center at Fifth and Bailey. The board of directors of the community playhouse previously asked for $50,000 grant and a $50,000 low-interest loan. The advisory committee tabled the request.

For the story of how the citizen’s advisory committee debated the arts council request, click HERE.