When people talk of “building dreams,” they’re not often referring to actual physical structures. But for Indiana Ballet Theatre (IBT) founder and CEO Gloria Tuohy, the emerging Classical Arts Centre (CAC) on North Main Street in Crown Point is indeed coming together as not only the physical manifestation of a long-time dream come true, but another in a long line of vanquished challenges.
“This is what I get a kick out of—trying to do the impossible,” Tuohy says. “Whenever someone tells me I can’t do something, I have to try it.”
Vision to Reality
Plenty of people have likely expressed some variation of that opinion to Tuohy over the past decade as she has worked tirelessly to bring the CAC from vision to reality. Just being able to sustain a viable arts organization in this day and age is hard enough work, after all, without the added stress and financial pressure of trying to rehabilitate and open a brand new facility—in this case, a three-story, 20,000-square-foot landmark building that once housed the Sanatorium Nurses’ Home.
But true to her nature, Tuohy has persisted, in large part because the CAC represents a much larger goal than simply providing a new home base for her beloved IBT. While the initial motivation behind the project was indeed to find a more spacious and permanent facility for her own dance classes, workshops and productions, Tuohy was inspired by the multi-discipline arts centers she had seen and experienced throughout Europe and soon had bigger plans for the CAC.
“The vision just grew,” she explains. “As I’ve gone through this process, it’s become much more about providing meaningful programming for families from a variety of different arts groups. I’ve seen how this type of arts center can transform communities, and that’s what we want to do here.”
To that end, the CAC will comprise shared working space—including a black box theater, meeting rooms, studio space, a café and more—to be utilized by a variety of area organizations, including South Shore Arts. Just as vital to the project, however, is the space outside of the historic 1930 structure’s refurbished walls, where a natural playground, an outdoor performance space, communal gardens and a link to the nearby walking/biking path will invite the community to experience the arts in a number of different settings and seasons. Tuohy says the idea is to offer a variety of opportunities for area residents to reconnect with the arts.
“I asked someone I know quite well how often he goes out just for fun, and he said almost never,” she notes. “We’re all so busy these days. I hope that this facility will help give people back that other side of life.”
But it’s not just the citizens and the arts organizations of Crown Point that stand to benefit if Tuohy’s ultimate vision of the CAC comes to pass. She believes the new arts complex will also be an economic engine for the town’s business community.
“IBT alone teaches 200 students every week, so all of those family members will be coming into this building and they’ll venture out to frequent the shops and restaurants in the surrounding area,” she says.
Before any of that comes to fruition, however, there’s the matter of getting over the next hurdles of development. While the exterior rehab of the building is pretty much complete at this point, the significant work needed to transform the interior is still several months from getting underway, which is why Tuohy will continue to spend much of her time in the coming months on fundraising in anticipation of a late 2017 opening date.
Between now and then—no matter how much effort it takes to finish the job—nobody should expect her to quit. After all, one of the main reasons the CAC project came into being in the first place almost a dozen years ago was the emergence and growth of IBT itself, another passion project. In other words, Tuohy has something of a track record of seeing these things through to their successful conclusions.
“I haven’t given up—I just don’t do that,” she says. “When we’re through, this will just be an amazing adventure for everyone.”