Prairie Arts Center Update

Published: Apr. 15, 2020 at 12:20 PM CDT
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The Prairie Arts Center is a source of pride in North Platte, and more improvements to the building are now being celebrated.

We're told the building started out as a federal building in 1913. Then, it was a post office, and later home to the local community college. It sat empty for several years and fell into disrepair. But the Creativity Unlimited Arts Council decided it could be saved and used.

We recently visited with Wava Best and Rick Nelson to talk more about the center's history, and its future. "The building became available," Best said. "The city was going to tear it down and turn it into a parking lot. They offered it to us for $10,000 if we would raise $250,000 within 6 or 8 weeks. We went around, knocked on doors, and we completed that task. So we owned it."

The building has experienced a total renovation of electrical, heating and plumbing to bring everything up to code. "What we call the studio level is actually the basement," Best said. "We opened that in 2013." The studio level features several classrooms and work space areas. Then, the group moved up to the first floor. "It has a wonderful gift shop, it has our main gallery, and it has a beautiful east hallway that we've renovated. The second floor features a lovely reception area, and there's a patio off of the reception room."

The third floor is the latest development for the Prairie Arts Center. "We finally opened it in 2019," Best said. "Each floor has been at least a two-year project. Up here is more of the educational spaces. Great Plains Health is sponsor of one of the rooms. We've divided one of the large rooms on the east side into three studios. There is a computer graphics room, and in the back of that, we have what's called 'Jenny's Closet'. It features Jenny Raymond's wonderful quilted garments that she's internationally known for. She's from Brady, and she donated all of the garments to us." Perhaps the crown jewel of the third floor is the room designed to look like the studio of former North Platte artist Ted Long. "Rick Nelson was instrumental in getting that room to look like Ted Long's cabin that he worked in outside of town. Long is a well-known western artist," Best said.

Rick Nelson did much of the construction work on the building and he said at first, it looked like too big of a job. "It was not in good repair. In fact, it was in terrible repair. I had to give it some consideration," Nelson laughed. "But thankfully, I got involved. And I'm blessed to be a part of this, because we've taken a building that was on its last breath, and we've given it life. It's just been a wonderful experience for me, and for all of us that have been a part of it."

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