New classroom building proposed at Blanden

Project estimated to cost $1.6 million

The days of heading to the basement of the Blanden Memorial Art Museum for hands-on lessons in painting and other art forms may be numbered.

That’s because a new building right next to the museum that would house more classroom space is being planned.

The project has an estimated cost of $1.6 million, but Fort Dodge taxpayers won’t be asked to foot the full bill. The Blanden Charitable Foundation is planning a fundraising effort and is applying for a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to help pay for it.

“We’re excited about it,” Eric Anderson, the museum’s director, told the City Council Monday. “It will be great to have a space where we can serve the community better.”

The project was introduced to the council Monday. The council is expected to act on a resolution declaring its support for the project during an upcoming meeting, but some council members voiced their support Monday.

“I think we’ve got a jewel in the Blanden,” said Councilman Dave Flattery. “I fully endorse this project.”

The classroom is in the basement of the museum at 920 Third Ave. S. It’s not an ideal location, according to Anderson. For example, he said its emergency exit is a steep staircase leading to a window.

But Anderson said the need to upgrade the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system for the whole museum is the catalyst for the proposal.

To make the upgrade, a device about the size of a bus has to be obtained, he said.

Instead of having that big machine sitting on the ground, Anderson has proposed building a new structure on the west side of the museum. He said the HVAC machine would be on the roof of the building, hidden behind a short wall.

Inside the building would be a large main classroom, a smaller classroom, an office for the museum’s art educator and restrooms.

City Manager David Fierke said money from a planned 2021 bond issue would pay for the HVAC upgrade. Grants and donations would pay for the new building.

”The taxpayers aren’t being asked to build an addition,” Mayor Matt Bemrich said. ”We as taxpayers are being asked to replace a system that has run its useful life.”