Grant earmarked for proposed Culinary Arts Center at Art in the Loft

The curtained-off room tucked unobtrusively in a corner at Art in the Loft may not appear like much at the moment, but plans are in the works to totally transform it.

Ultimately, the room is destined to become Alpena’s Culinary Arts Center. Those plans moved one step closer to reality recently with the announcement of a $25,000 grant from the Besser Foundation.

“This will jump start our kitchen,” said Justin Christensen-Cooper, gallery coordinator at Art in the Loft.

The room currently is used by caterers as a staging area for special events held at the Loft, but the space is rudimentary at best. When completed, the new kitchen will be used heavily as a teaching kitchen and not just to accommodate special Loft events.

“It will not just be for catering,” Christensen-Cooper said. “It will be a teaching kitchen. Our whole programming will revolve around that.”

As such, the proposed Culinary Arts Center will be used for culinary arts classes, workshops and demonstrations. Since there is a strong interest in the culinary arts locally, it is a logical extension of the arts education and arts programming that has been provided at the Loft over the past 12 years.

Christensen-Cooper said a need has been seen in the community to provide culinary arts workshops and classes for all ages. A Culinary Arts Center would allow for this and would also continue to serve the Loft’s mission of arts education and community participation in the arts.

A big part of the teaching aspect will involve kids, who naturally look to cook. The Loft has offered a Pizza Picasso workshop for youth each year during its Young Artist Workshop series, and it is always the first of the workshops to fill up.

Estimated costs for the total project are $53,525 in construction costs and $47,500 in equipment costs. It is hoped that the project will be completed within a year’s time.

Along with the recent grant from the Besser Foundation, local fundraising efforts also are under way. To date, approximately $17,000 has been given through donors purchasing tiles with their names on them for $50 each. Contributions of cabinets and equipment are valued at $6,100, and many commitments of volunteer labor have been received.

Christensen-Cooper said he also just received notification of a $1,000 grant from the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan’s Youth Advisory Council. CFNEM had earlier this year also awarded the Loft a $3,000 grant for the kitchen project.

“We also have a sponsorship campaign coming up,” he said.

Besides seeking funding for the project, input was obtained from three local caterers on what kinds of equipment would best suit the needs of a Culinary Arts Center. The caterers included Eric Peterson of the Fresh Palate, John Benson of JJ’s Catering and Ray Bock of Fremont Catering.

Trinity Architecture & Management LLC provide a proposed plan for the project.