Friday, July 27, 2001

Carnegie Arts Center more accessible

By Scott Wartman
Enquirer Contributor

        COVINGTON — On the 11th anniversary of Congress signing the Americans with Disabilities Act, Gov. Paul Patton helped break ground for the connector addition on the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center that will make the 99-year-old building handicapped accessible.

        At the groundbreaking Thursday, Mr. Patton said the arts play a valuable role in the community and need to be supported.

        “The visual and performing arts have the ability to enhance the quality of life for all our citizens,” Mr. Patton said. “Things like this (the Carnegie center) are what make life really special.”

        The $1.7 million addition to the center will be a separate structure containing lower-level restrooms and an elevator that connects the center's gallery and adjacent theater. A million dollars for the connector was awarded from the federal Transportation Equity Act for the 21st century.

        Contributions from the Otto M. Budig Jr. Foundation, the city of Covington, the Mayerson Foundation and the Greater Cincinnati Foundation covered the additional $700,000.

        If the arts center did not modify its structure to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, it would no longer be eligible to receive federal funding.

        Two children from the Redwood Rehabilitation center in Fort Mitchell were on hand for the ceremony. Redwood provides therapy for children with disabilities and takes part in arts programs for disabled children at the center. Executive Director Barbara Bowman said making the historic building ADA-compliant is a big bonus for those with disabilities.

        “It will make them feel included,” Ms. Bowman said. “It is important for disabled people to be able to participate fully in the community.”

        Executive Director Mary Anne Wehrend said the connector addition will benefit all patrons because it will significantly upgrade the restroom facilities. Ms. Wehrend said it was common to find 30 children lined up to use the bathroom during some of the center's educational art programs. The lines were worse for art exhibitions that saw crowds in the thousands, she said.

        “The whole point of the art center is to be of service to the whole community,” Ms. Wehrend said. “We will be able to serve more people now.”

        The construction is the largest structural change to the building since it was built in 1902 as a library from an endowment by steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie — one of thousands of Carnegie libraries built throughout the country.

        The building became an arts center in 1974 when the Kenton County Public Library moved out.

        The construction will alter very little of the building's frame, said Carnegie Arts Center President Susan Schuler.

        “Historically, we are very aware of the significance of this building and are leaving it as much intact as we can.”


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