Construction begins on Thyen-Clark Cultural Center

Photos by Traci Westcott/The Herald
Jasper Public Library staff, from left, Peggy Grow, Brenda Woodard, Beth Herzog-Schmidt, Christine Golden and Judy Angerer break ground in celebration of the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center in Jasper on Tuesday. 


JASPER — After years of debate and discussion, Jasper citizens will see the long-awaited Thyen-Clark Cultural Center take form.

More than 100 people gathered at 100 Third Avenue — the address of the future cultural center — for a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday evening ahead of Krempp Construction crews rolling onto the site today. Jasper Community Arts Commission Board President Mike Jones pointed out that it’s been four years, three months and 27 days since the arts board and Jasper Public Library Board first walked through the Hoosier Desk building together and began talking about creating a shared space.

Now, it’s becoming a reality.

It will be a bit before the building itself starts to take shape. Construction crews must first level the building site and raise the elevation about two and a half feet. That work starts today.

Assuming everything goes smoothly, the structure should start to take shape in a few months, with the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center opening in fall 2020. Once the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center opens, the Jasper Public Library will move all of its services to its wing of the roughly 30,000-square-foot building, including administration staff currently housed in the Jasper Library Annex. The Jasper Community Arts Commission will move its gallery, workshop and office spaces to its wing of the building. The performing arts stage will stay at the arts center’s current location on College Avenue adjacent to Vincennes University Jasper Campus.

“I’m most excited to see this dream — that has really always felt like a dream — become a reality,” said Library Director Christine Golden.

Arts Director Kyle Rupert shared her excitement.

“Before now, it’s only been on paper,” Rupert said of the cultural center. “It didn’t really feel real.”

The building may not have felt real, but city and library staff have put real work into making the project happen. It’s taken months to work through all the legal and financial hurdles that come with two government entities, each with its own set of legal requirements, working together on a multimillion dollar project — the construction budget alone is $13 million. Add to that the library’s property tax referendum in the 2016 election, the $3.5 million in tax credits the Indiana Economic Development Corporation awarded to the project and the Jasper LEADs fundraising campaign, and the process became more complicated.

But everyone involved agrees that the hard work has been worth it to give Jasper a development that is unique. Throughout the process, officials said they’ve repeatedly heard that a partnership like the one between the Jasper Public Library and Jasper Community Arts Department is unheard of. The amount of community support, particularly though donations, is unheard of, too.

“We should all be proud of the vision our community has for its citizens and our future generations,” said Library Board President Pamela Catt.

For those involved, working on the cultural center has felt like creating a legacy for the City of Jasper that is all its own.

Golden summed up the project with a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote: “Do not go where the path my lead. Go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail.”

Jasper Mayor Dean Vonderheide speaks at the groundbreaking celebration for Thyen-Clark cultural center in Jasper on Tuesday.
Shovels set out in preparation for the ground breaking celebration for Thyen-Clark cultural center in Jasper on Tuesday.
Jasper Visual Arts Coordinator Emily Peak, center, shows her daughter, Mia, 1, a shovel to play with after the groundbreaking celebration for Thyen-Clark cultural center in Jasper on Tuesday.
Corbin Schnarr, right, and Joe Buehler, both 8, of Jasper, play in the sand after the ground breaking celebration for Thyen-Clark cultural center in Jasper on Tuesday. "More art! More books!" Corbin said.

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