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Arthouse at Jones Center announces $1 million capital campaign

Tuesday, December 2, 2008 by Austin Monitor

With the help of five Austin philanthropists—including Mickey and Jeanne Klein and Julie and John Thornton, plus one anonymous art lover—the Arthouse at Jones Center announced a capital campaign challenge on Monday to raise another $1 million toward the expansion of the downtown arts space.


The Arthouse, located in the 700 block of Congress Avenue, has raised $4.2 million of the $6.6 million cost of its expansion, which will add three new galleries, two artist’s studios, a 90-seat screening room and a 5,500-square-foot rooftop space with a large movie screen. The challenge also will establish a $250,000 curatorial fund and a $300,000 opportunities fund.


The challenge will match all donations up to $1 million in new three-year pledges.


The campaign was announced on the same day a national recession was declared. Mickey Klein was not daunted in the news of the downturn in the economy.


“People support  all the arts more during economic downturns,” Klein said. “We need to make this available to all of the people who are having a hard time now and in the future.”


Klein guaranteed the renovation– designed by Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis – would begin if the capital campaign met its goals. Klein called the design of the expansion “brilliant,” saying he embraced the project, the institution and the city. He called the expanded Arthouse a destination for those who live in Austin but also a draw for art lovers who live elsewhere.


For decades, the Arthouse property was the Lerners Department Store. However, it was initially used as the Queen Theater. Along with the State and Paramount theaters, it served as the City of Austin’s early entertainment district.


Arthouse aims to begin construction in 2009, with completion anticipated in 2010. That is intended to have the building ready for its centennial in 2010.


Mayor Will Wynn was with the Arthouse representatives at the capital campaign announcement. Wynn has been an active part of the fund-raising process. He called the Arthouse at the Jones Center “a great old building, a very visible building,” adding that the new design is ingenious.


The plans for the expansion will roughly triple the space of the building on its existing footprint. To get a look at the design, go to the Arthouse website at


Arthouse has been an active partner in the city’s cultural arts program, said Wynn, explaining his presence at the news conference. As an entity that gets Arts in Public Places funding, the Arthouse is technically a city partner.

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