Arlington community group wants to turn art museum into gathering place with a nod to city's past
A burgeoning Arlington nonprofit wants to redevelop downtown's Arlington Museum of Art into a community gathering space named after the city's historic mineral well.
The building, called Wellspring on Main, will be a "keystone facility" that rounds out its area of downtown along West Main Street, according to a city press release.
The nonprofit leading the charge, the Arlington Center for Community Engagement (ACCE), comprises a partnership of local churches and business owners.
Preliminary building plans depict a water fountain, green space and circular gathering spaces that include space for a choir. The building will be across from the clock tower under construction between Arlington City Council chambers and the George W. Hawkes Downtown Library.
Both the clocktower and the Wellspring allude to the Old Mineral Well at the intersection of Center and Main streets. The fountain featured ornate lion heads through which mineral water flowed.
Priscilla Promise with the ACCE says community groups banded together to dream up the project after the city's Unity Council released its report in 2021. The 132-page document called for programs and services to address systemic inequities.
"Some of us were engaged with that process, and it inspired us with the idea that we needed a place in Arlington where people could come together on a regular basis and discuss differences, get to know each other, identify problems and work on solutions," Promise says.
Jason Shelton, who heads the Unity Council, said he believes the group is planning great work.
"I can definitely say they are strongly influenced by the Unity Council's recommendations and are planning to make our city a more inclusive place for all local residents," Shelton said.
A preliminary timeline on the ACCE website projects building development and construction to last through 2024. Organizations that comprise the ACCE partnership include the Arlington Museum of Art, All Souls Episcopal Church, Duvall-Decker Architects, Brookings Institution's Bass Center for Transformative Placemaking and the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.
Several of the downtown businesses cohosted the ACCE and Wellspring's first event Thursday, Oct. 27. The two-hour design presentation, "Gathering at the Wellspring, Envisioning the Future of Arlington," showcased work from students at UT Arlington's College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs and Arlington Independent School District that centered around recreating spaces for sustainable housing and wellness.
Promise says partnering with students, especially those of UTA, were an "a-ha" moment for the ACCE as a way to make good on their mission.
"This is exactly what Wellspring wants to do: to bring ideas to the community so that people can have conversations about them," she says.