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COCA Completes Expansion, And Students Are Getting First Look At Its New Facilities

This artist's rendering shows how the expansion will change the exterior of COCA arts center.
Provided | COCA
The expansion include a 450-seat theater and includes more than 8,000 square feet of studio space.

The Center of Creative Arts has completed a $36 million expansion with plenty of space to safely conduct classes during the coronavirus pandemic.

The project adds approximately 52,000 square feet to COCA’s facility, which now includes more than 8,000 square feet of studio space. It also has a community space, a 200-car parking garage and a 450-seat theater.

“This has been a multiyear journey and we are completely in awe and grateful for the community support to get us to this point,” COCA Executive Director Kelly Pollock said. “This is going to allow us not only to serve more students from the region, but it’s also going to professionalize all of the different disciplines, different programs that we have.”

Workers completed the project in three phases and renovated COCA's original building. The organization initially expected to complete the project by the end of last year but faced several delays. The coronavirus pandemic further delayed completion of the new facility.

The center already is using the space for some classes. The expanded space gives it more room to keep people at a safe distance from each other to protect them from the virus, Pollock said.

“One of the great benefits of having this new space and this expanded campus, it actually is quite appropriate to be able to spread out during social distancing,” Pollock said. “We've done a much-reduced schedule to kind of test all protocols for the summer months and hope to continue with smaller enrollments, social distance-type of programs.”

As workers were building the project, COCA also raised more than $9 million for its endowment.

Pollock said COCA expects to hold performances and shows in its new theater early next year.

COCA has lost ticket sales this year because of cancelled events and programs. But an approximately $700,000 federal Paycheck Protection Program loan to support its teaching artists and staff has helped it weather the coronavirus crisis, Pollock said.

“That was really just extraordinary support to help get us through this year, and without that support going forward, we'll have to get much more creative and just trim down to make sure that we can align our expenses with the limited revenue that we're going to be seeing in the months to come.”

A visual art installation will open in the new community area in September.

Follow Chad on Twitter: @iamcdavis

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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