Arts United purchases the Fourth Wave building

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Press release from Arts United:

Arts United Purchases the Fourth Wave Building

(November 24, 2010) – At a press conference today, Jim Sparrow, Executive Director of Arts United, announced the organization has acquired the Fourth Wave building. The building will eventually serve as a shared space for arts organizations.

“At Arts United, we have held onto the dream of developing a large arts campus to build a stronger cultural district. We are moving in that direction carefully and deliberately,” says Sparrow. Arts United is planning to create a centralized hub of artistic activity that will spur social, economic and cultural growth for decades to come.

Arts United is in the first phase of a multi-year project. The first step was acquiring the funding for the Fourth Wave Building, which was purchased for
$2.2 million. Arts United has acquired the building with a quiet fundraising campaign through local private and corporate foundations. Those contributions have made it possible for Arts United to purchase the building, pay for some initial renovations and to start increasing their endowment for facility maintenance.

The mission of Arts United is to enrich the community by supporting the arts with funding, services and facilities. Providing affordable office, rehearsal and performance centers enables small non-profit arts groups to operate more efficiently. This will help them retain and attract high quality staff and eventually an arts campus will spur more development creating new jobs and improving quality of life for the region.

Arts United leaders decided to acquire the Fourth Wave because the building’s architecture, floor plan and location are ideal for housing arts organizations and galleries. However, converting the office building to an arts complex will require a deliberate transition process. There are currently six organizations housed in the Fourth Wave Building. Arts United hopes to retain the majority of the existing leases, and will possibly extend some leases as they expire. This will not only help generate revenue but also allows the organization plenty of time for analyzing the best use of the building.


For the past year, Arts United has been working with community leaders to develop a cultural district plan for downtown Fort Wayne. A cultural district is a well-recognized, labeled, mixed-use area of a community in which high concentrations of cultural assets serve as the anchor. Communities with strong cultural districts encourage tourism and provide places for residents to gather new information and experiences to satisfy their cultural needs.

“Expanding our cultural district in the heart of our community is key so the arts are more easily accessible to residents from all points in our city and across the region,” says Sparrow. “The Fourth Wave building is in a perfect location for expanding the cultural hub around our Arts United Center, the Museum of Art, History Center and Hall Community Arts Building.”

This project, creating a “Home for the Arts,” was started 40 years ago by the founders of Arts United. When the Arts United Center was built in the 1970’s it was conceived as part of a 12-building campus by the architect, Louis Kahn. The Museum of Art was the second building in the campus concept. The plan included buildings for arts education, theatres, and galleries. Kahn’s dreams were big and impressive but the momentum for that project waned as the economy fluctuated and the city changed.

“Our board set forth on an aggressive strategic plan several years ago and each year we accomplish more,” says Sparrow. “Consolidation of services,
coordinated marketing, and sharing spaces are all parts of the equation. Purchase of the Fourth Wave building moves the campus concept further and will enable us to operate more efficiently in the long run.”

Moving Forward

Arts United intends to use the Fourth Wave building to house several arts organizations and the next step in the strategic plan is adapting currently
unoccupied space in the building for the Fort Wayne Ballet. Arts United owns the Ballet’s building on Penn Avenue but the Ballet is outgrowing the space and their building is in need of renovations. They will likely move into the Fourth Wave Building this spring. This is an excellent opportunity for the Fort Wayne Ballet to gain greater visibility as well as addressing their facility needs.

“We have had conversations with all of our funded member groups, and others, to determine which organizations have the greatest facility needs,” says Sparrow. “The Ballet will be the first but there are other groups such as Artlink planning to grow too. We are taking all their needs into consideration as we look at the space and how we’ll best utilize it.”

As more arts groups move into the Fourth Wave Building, the area will become increasingly busier. Several hundred families participate in the Fort Wayne Ballet’s academy and programs and other organizations interested in sharing the arts complex will also bring more pedestrians to the area. In the long term, the level of activity between the Fourth Wave arts organizations combined with the Museum of Art and Arts United Center activities will consistently make this a vibrant and busy block of downtown.

Purchase of the Fourth Wave Building is part of a larger plan. Arts United will announce the specifics of those long-term goals as the plan progresses.
Meanwhile, renovations for the Fort Wayne Ballet will begin and the Arts United board will continue evaluating options for sharing the building with other arts organizations in the future.

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