Proposed Kerouac Center

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Lowell has a long history in the arts, including textiles and fabric art, painting, printmaking, writing, poetry, and dance. Lowell is the home for a large community of artists. James Whistler was born in Lowell in 1834. Jack Kerouac was born in Lowell in 1922. Son of Canadian immigrants, he grew up in Lowell and wrote about the city. In 1986 Tim Thou, a Cambodian refugee, formed Angkor Dance Troupe. The city’s motto is, “Art is the Handmaid of Human Good.”

Lowell doesn’t have is a Cultural Center!

However we have some important assets –
1) the Smith-Baker Center, an outstanding performance space in city center,
2) the Kerouac legacy including –
a) The Jack and Stella Kerouac Center at UMass Lowell,
b) Lowell Celebrates Kerouac!,
c) Kerouac Park in downtown Lowell,
3) Angkor Dance Troupe, a nationally recognized Cambodian traditional arts organization.

The City has called for proposals to redevelop the Smith-Baker Center a a community art center.

The Smith-Baker alone is a performance space, an exceptional acoustic space. It’s overkill as a community art space and besides, there’s no space for the visual arts. However, the adjacent school building affords the project community arts space – visual arts on the second floor, gallery space on the ground floor, and space in the basement for sculpture, pottery and shops.

I would like to “up the ante” and propose that we redevelop the Smith-Baker and the adjacent school building as the Kerouac Center for the Arts.

Here is the my proposal, starting with elevations, from Merrimack Street and Market Street, and the Ground Floor plan –

elevation01
Merrimack Street elevation, across from Pollard Library and City Hall

elevation02
Market Street elevation

ground floor
Ground Floor plan

Including the school immediately raises a question, how to link the two buildings together? Turning the driveway between buildings into a lobby affords the overall project something that both buildings lack, a large, accessible gathering place. The new lobby space would be glassed in and rise several stories, open to the sky (glass roof), to include the large stained-glass window on the west wall of the Smith-Baker.

lobby01
Ground Floor plan highlighting lobby.

lobby02
Merrimack Street elevation highlighting lobby.

lobby03
Market Street elevation highlighting lobby.

The lobby provides access from Merrimack St, opposite the Pollack Library and City Hall, and from Market St. The Market Street entrance includes a drop-off the handicapped, an elevator is located nearby. Entering from Merrimack Street, immediately to the left and through the doors into the Smith Baker is the entrance to the Kerouac Library.

library
Ground plan highlighting Kerouac Library.

Straight ahead, there’s an information desk and ticket counter. Opposite the counter, to the right and up a few stairs is the Gallery.

gallery
Ground floor plan highlighting Gallery.

Past the the counter, to the left and through the doors is the Angkor Troupe rehearsal space.

angkor
Ground Floor plan highlighting Angkor Troupe space.

The lobby extends into both buildings, bringing the two together as well as providing convenient access to all of the Center’s varied functions. The doors into the Smith-Baker lead to staircases on the left and right going up to the Performance Hall. The Gallery portion of the lobby includes a Gallery Shop, access to the galleries, and to the floors above and below.

mainfloor
Main Floor plan

performance01
Main Floor Plan highlighting Performance Hall

community
Main Floor Plan highlighting Community Art Space

The staircases on the left and right continue up to the balcony level.

balcony
Balcony plan

performance02
Balcony plan highlighting Performance Hall

This proposal preserves, and enhances the Smith-Baker as a performance space. It adds a new Kerouac Library, and a new home for the Angkor Dance Troupe. The school building next door includes a Gallery and studios for Community Arts.

Thanks to Yun-Ju Choi at Coalition for a Better Acre for access to architectural plans for Smith-Baker.

My proposal is a concept study, which offers the City and the Arts Community a “jumping off point” for the future development and enrichment of arts and culture in Lowell.

Thank-you for reading –

Walter Wright
114 Grand St
Lowell MA 01851
978 869 3175

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