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Classical Arts Centre slated to become destination spot in Northwest Indiana

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CROWN POINT — Beauty and graceful lines are at the heart of ballet.

It's hoped those key tenants of the popular art form will spread to an old county building being renovated into the Indiana Ballet Theatre in Crown Point, organizers of the project said.

Earlier this month, Indiana Ballet Theatre founder Gloria Tuohy and one of her dancers, 14-year-old Amanda Willy, of Schererville, viewed the grounds and interior of their future home — the 20,000-square-foot former nurses sanatorium on North Main Street near the Lake County Government Complex. 

There already were signs of restoration on the exterior of the building that has been vacant and in a state of disrepair for decades. The organization invested $500,000 for phase one of the project, which was completed in the spring.

The work included asbestos removal from the building, restoring and replacing 122 windows, tuck pointing and renovation of the 1930s-era building’s exterior entrance.

There wasn't much to be seen on the inside, but an estimated $3 million renovation of the building's three floors and basement is scheduled to begin later this year.

The projected completion for what will be known as the Classical Arts Centre is summer 2018. 

"I'm excited for it," Willy said. 

Tuohy said the Centre will serve all ages, and local businesses will benefit because it will become a destination spot in Northwest Indiana.

"This is going to be an amazing facility," Tuohy said. 

It's been a long time in the offing.

The building was donated to the Indiana Ballet Theatre by the Lake County Commissioners 10 years ago for use as the Classical Arts Centre. Grants have since been received to help renovate the building, but more funds are needed.

A fundraising gala earlier this month at the Halls of St. George in Schererville is expected to help complete the project.

Late last week, Touhy said her organization still was quantifying the money generated from the gala.

Tuohy's mission for the Centre is for it to become a cultural and community gathering place for visual and performing arts and culture in the Region.

It is expected to house dance rehearsal studios, a black box theater, spaces for local musicians to teach and rehearse, a café/bistro and leased space opportunities for arts organizations and artists. The surrounding grounds will include various interactive gardens and an amphitheater for concerts and performances.

Why not Crown Point? 

Tuohy said the Centre is based on what is popular in her native England as well as Paris and other parts of Europe. 

"So why not in Crown Point," she said. 

Carol Highsmith, president of the Indiana Ballet Theatre Executive Board, said south Lake County needs a center that will bring the arts to all those who live and work here.

"We need everyone to help and become an active participant in the renovation of this historic grand building," she said. "This building was at one time dedicated to those that helped heal others. Now our hope is to dedicate this building to the health and well being of the heart and spirit through art."

Lourdes Castellanos, vice-president of the Indiana Ballet Theatre Executive Board, said Crown Point already has distinguished youth sports facilities that draw tourism and enhance quality of life. The Centre will add an arts element and make for a well-rounded community, she said.

"From a business standpoint, the Centre has the potential to be a destination spot and draw consumers from surrounding areas to local businesses," Castellanos said.

Indiana Ballet Theatre is seeking donations and support from businesses and the community to continue the remaining project work. For more information visit ibtnw.org.

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Lake County reporter

Rob covers urban affairs and other matters in Crown Point, St. John, Winfield and beyond. Previously he covered Valparaiso, Hammond, Gary and East Chicago. He's also written for various magazines and pens a culture blog for The Times.

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