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SPRINGFIELD — A dream seven years in the making is now a reality as the Springfield Arts Association cut the ribbon on its new, state-of-the-art Visual Arts Center on Saturday afternoon in the Enos Park neighborhood.

The 5,800-square foot building, 815 N. Fifth St., which will house a metals studio, glass studio and ceramics studio, represents a substantial upgrade from the former facilities. But, according to Springfield art advocates, the symbolism may mean more than the brick and mortar.

"I am sincerely hoping that this space will not only give people a really magnificent place to work, learn skills and gain confidence, but really help us build a much stronger creative community throughout Springfield and attract everyone who is interested in being involved in the arts," said Betsy Dollar, executive director of the Springfield Art Association.

The vision for the project started in 2012, when members celebrated the association's 100th anniversary and started contemplating the next 100 years. With the goal of educating the people of Springfield on the visual arts, the association began a capital campaign.

The total cost of the new building was about $1.8 million, Dollar said. Of that, $450,000 in came from tax increment financing funds from the Enos Park TIF and about $300,000 has been raised from more than 800 donors. Dollar said the association will continue to raise money for the new center.

Despite some early fundraising troubles, Dollar said they "weren't going to let the vision die. So it's just so exciting to see the fruits of all these labors."

Mayor Jim Langfelder predicted that that project would have a major impact on interest in the arts in Springfield, calling it a "generational project."

"This is a transformational project; not only for Enos Park or (the area) near downtown, but for the city of Springfield," he said.

Though the project is mostly done, equipment for a new hot glass program is still being built. Construction on that studio is expected to be complete in June.

However, in anticipation of it, the SAA has partnered with the Springfield Area Arts Council, which has donated $10,000 to help fund a two-year artist residency to help get the hot glass program off the ground.

The building was designed by Springfield-based Walton & Associates Architects.

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