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Dec 08

AUTHOR: Jasmine Bejar
CATEGORY: Stories of Impact

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Art & You: Zach Benedict

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Located within walking distance from other downtown development initiatives like the Riverfront and the Landing, at the heart of the Arts Campus breathes a building rich in history, culture and community—the Arts United Center.

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Arts United understands the value of place. Places are more than brick and mortar. They are spaces where people come together to meet, to engage, to learn, to grow. That’s why Arts United is investing in this place, the downtown Arts Campus, so that people can have access to the experiences they desire. This process starts at the core of our Arts Campus, the Arts United Center. Arts United hired a team of architects to meet the challenge, and one member of that team is Zach Benedict, partner at MKM architecture + design, and the local lead on the Arts Campus Master Planning project.

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“Architecture is one of the few, if not the only, art forms that many of us are forced to experience…architecture is charged with serving as a host to our everyday activities and routines. So the challenge of architecture is that it is an art form that is simultaneously sculptural and sociological.

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“The Arts United Center was designed by Louis Kahn, one of the greatest architects to ever practice, and stands as his only performing arts space. For me, it’s one of the best pieces of architecture in the Midwest and I was absolutely thrilled to be given the opportunity to participate in its renovation,” said Zach.  Yes, this theatre is home to performances, plays, organizations and other events, but most importantly, it is home to experiences that only a world-class performing arts space can offer a community.

“As an architect, I spend most of my time thinking about the connection between places and people. My primary focus is in understanding how design impacts individual health and well-being. I work on projects ranging from senior living facilities to public libraries, but in all of my work I am interested in how design can support ideas of dignity, security, belonging and happiness.

The updates to the Arts Campus, and specifically the Arts United Center, will help ensure that the arts are accessible to all in our community, provide excellence for the organizations that use these spaces and the diverse community members they serve and continue to proclaim the arts as a regional priority among our community leaders. Zach adds, “As economic development continues to support a preference for ‘quality of place’ initiatives, it becomes increasingly more important for communities to understand how they can provide active, comfortable, social and accessible places for everyone. In these terms, ‘accessibility’ becomes an effort to understand how a district like this can engage people of all incomes, sexes, races, orientations, ages, and abilities. I don’t think there is a better way to do this than through the arts.

“Few regions have as many unique communities as we do—places with their own character and story. As cities and towns better understand how they can engage the creative class, our region can develop into a vibrant collection of urban villages and innovation hubs.”