Cultural center still set for January soft opening

Christine Stephenson/The Herald
The Thyen-Clark Cultural Center is uniting the Jasper Public Library and Jasper Community Arts under one roof.


JASPER — The Jasper Public Library and Jasper Community Arts' move into the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center has been years in the making and is almost complete. Library Director Christine Golden had always expected obstacles along the way, but for a long time, a pandemic wasn’t one of them.

The cultural center is set to open in January, including the library and areas of the building that belong to Jasper Community Arts. When Golden and Arts Director Kyle Rupert first pictured the grand opening, they imagined the building being flooded with excited patrons. But things change.

For now, as long as Dubois County’s COVID-19 cases are as high as they are, there won’t be a grand opening. The building will welcome patrons beginning in early 2021, but Golden said she hopes people will stick to quick trips for their own safety.

While COVID-19 has postponed some plans, Golden said, the pandemic has allowed her staff to transition into the new building at a comfortable pace and prepare themselves for the opening.

“It’s going to kind of be a way for us to be able to get in and get to learn the building and then hit the ground running with programming,” she said.

Jasper Community Arts is also finishing up the moving process at a comfortable pace due to COVID-19, Rupert said. But while the building may look finished at the surface level, Rupert is still caught up in fixing last-minute details.

"When you're in the weeds of it every day, you kinda get lost in the forest," he said. "I sort of live vicariously through those who come into the building for the first time or haven't seen it since construction started, and their reactions are how I gauge my feelings on it."

The community arts portion of the building will also have a soft open, of which the date is yet to be determined. Exhibits will officially open Jan. 7.

The new library setup will still include socially-distanced furniture and plexiglass between employees and patrons, and people are encouraged to come visit only if they feel well, Golden said.

Right now, the building is substantially complete, Golden said. Some inventory still needs to be moved, she said, but the library doesn’t want to put anyone at risk of COVID-19 by taking volunteer movers.

In the meantime, the Jasper library’s old location will remain closed. Patrons are encouraged to visit the other three locations in Ferdinand, Dubois and Birdseye, as library cards still work at all the locations.

Until the Jasper library's phones are running again, calls will be redirected to the Ferdinand location. Additionally, if patrons have on-hold orders reserved at the Jasper location, they can them pick up from the Ferdinand location or the orders will be temporarily suspended.

Although the library and community arts will work together in the combined building, Golden said the two will remain separate entities.

“I think there’s a lot of people who are afraid we’re gonna lose our own individual identity,” Golden said. “That’s not going to happen. What we’re going to do is leverage that coexistence in one building to provide new and exciting opportunities for the public.”

Rupert said he is also looking forward to working with the library in the future. For example, the library and community arts partnered in November to produce a virtual puppet show, which combined both performance and literary elements and was successful with the public.

Rupert also said he looks forward to the public being able to see how technologically advanced the cultural center is.

“This building is of the likes of which Jasper really hasn’t seen,” he said. “We’re incredibly modern.”

Rupert and Golden said they are excited for patrons to see the new building and its features but want to prioritize safety first.

“We’re gonna continue to take this day by day,” Golden said. “And each day, if what were doing changes just a little bit … and we’re keeping it a safe environment for everyone involved, then I think in the long run, that’s going to be the best way to do this.”

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