BY LEANN DILBECK –
Emmye Rowell of Mena has purchased the building at the corner of Mena and Maple Streets and has announced her plans to open a new Creative Arts Center. Rowell explained that this has always been a dream for her but it has come into fruition much sooner than she expected.
Rowell purchased Beautiful Soles, a Christian dance company, from Candace Riner earlier this year with the plans of someday owning her own studio and hopes of it being downtown. She originally had discussions with the building owner about the possibility of leasing the building but explained that after she looked at the building, she saw endless possibilities of her dance studio dream growing into a full scale Creative Arts Center and decided to make both the commitment and investment to be a permanent fixture in Mena’s continually budding Arts District. “I always wanted to be downtown and it being in the Arts District was just a bonus! It just all went so much faster than I expected it to… but it’s great… and everything has come together so well,” said Rowell.
Rowell explained that ultimately, the Center will include multiple music studios to include not only dance but also voice, guitar, piano, and drum lessons as well as an art studio, aerobic room, and martial arts. And she’s considered the parents as well in the design and plans to incorporate a coffee and ice cream shop that will only be open in the evenings. Rowell explained it would be a convenience to waiting parents of students receiving lessons but it will also be open to the public and will offer self-serve ice cream, coffee, free WiFi, etc.
Rowell’s project manager assisting her with all of the extensive renovations is her father, Victor Rowell. The duo explained that the renovations will occur in two phases. Phase I will renovate the downstairs area to include a lobby, restrooms and a 1,200 s.f. dance studio. Emmye explained that is twice the size of their former location and will enable her to better accommodate more students. Renovations have exposed spectacular ornate cast iron columns that are original to the building and new 3×8 windows have already been installed.
Phase I is expected to be complete soon so as to accommodate her Registration and Open House dates on August 16 and 25. Beautiful Soles has nine classes for students age 3 to 18. For ages 3 to 10, they offer ballet, jazz, lyrical, baton and ribbon. For ages 10 and up, contemporary, lyrical and ribbon is offered. Rowell explained that she and her student teacher, Abi McPherson, teach more than dance hoping to help mentor the young ladies to develop strong character and discipline. “We have a memory verse each week, too. We want to help grow them into the people God created them to be.” Emmye currently has other student teachers in training as well to assist with her growing dance company.
After completing Phase I, renovations will begin focusing on the exterior of the building and the Rowells are looking forward to a paint scheme that showcases the creative architecture of the historic building. The building sustained damage during both the 1993 and 2009 tornadoes. The Rowell’s have contracted with MSBI to assist with the tearing off the back portion of the building that had been compromised. Sadly, there is no way to salvage the mural on the side of the building but Emmye is having discussions with artists to replace it with another mural of some sort.
Phase II will begin after recitals in April 2017. Phase II will be even more extensive than the first, completely gutting the downstairs, adding structural support beams and relocating the 1,200 s.f. dance studio upstairs and expanding it to 2,200 s.f. as well as the addition of a 1,200 s.f. two bedroom, two bath studio apartment on the backside of the top story that Emmye will then call “home.” All of the additional studios will be added downstairs at that time. The floor of the second story will be removed on the front side of the building that will create a 30’ tall lobby that will ultimately have two staircases leading to a wrap around balcony with a view of the downstairs and downtown.
Gar Eisele, ARCO co-chair is ecstatic about the plans for the building, emphasizing that it incorporates all of the vital components crucial to successful downtown revitalization. “It’s incredible to think that just a few years ago, our downtown had so many empty and dilapidated buildings but one by one, more people are seeing the potential and are making the investments that keep our downtown revitalization movement going. We have retail, dining, entertainment, and growing downtown residential opportunities… everything is there… but they can’t rely on tourists alone, it will take the community’s support by remembering the importance of shopping local, too.”