Kimberly Wyant can’t believe her good fortune. After learning she would have to move her KRaP Art studio from its home near Lake Mirror, some business leaders helped her find a new spot that’s many times larger. “Sometimes blessings emerge from tragedy,” she said.
The new home for Wyant’s gallery/studio/classroom/music venue — KRaP stands for Kimberly’s Recycled Art Projects — is a warehouse at 938 E. Main Street behind Boring Business Systems.
Building owner Dean Boring said the idea for an arts-related business resonated with him when he was approached by Steve Scruggs, head of the Lakeland Economic Development Council.
Artisan and maker businesses have been recommended as a way to revitalize the East Main Street gateway to downtown, he said. “It’s a move in the right direction to get some vibrant activity going in an underutilized part of downtown.”
Scruggs started helping Wyant scout new locations after she discovered KRaP Art would have to vacate its current location at 454 E. Main St. to make way for the LEDC’s $13 million plan to turn the Lakeland Cash Feed building next door into the Catapult 2.0 small business incubator.
“Honestly, when I looked in the window I never thought that would be the place,” Wyant said of her first glimpse at the Boring space. “It was just so big. I thought there would be no way I could get a place like that. It seemed like everything I wanted and that isn’t always possible.”
Both he and LEDC are helping financially, Boring confirmed. A former city commissioner, he said a consultant for the Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency is recommending “an artistry concept” for East Main Street.
City officials are expecting final recommendations from consultants Tindale Oliver in the next few weeks, CRA Project Manager Patricia Hendler said.
To Wyant, the new location makes a lot of sense because of proximity to schools — students from Florida Southern College, Lakeland High School and Harrison Arts Center are close — and to the newly opened 801 E. Main complex, which includes the Poor Porker beignet stand, two retail stores and nightlife.
Both businesses attract a bohemian crowd, but she said her audience — especially for evening concerts — is younger. A lot of students come to her music events, and unlike her neighbor a few blocks away she serves no alcohol and doesn’t plan to.
“We’re trying to fill a gap for a younger crowd because they don’t have a place to hang out,” she said.
KRaP Art will remain in its current location until after Christmas and then take a month-long hiatus as she and volunteers clean and prepare the new space, Wyant said. The first planned event is an oil painting class Jan. 27 presented by local artist Elizabeth Hults.
The mix will remain similar: a gallery/gift shop, studio space, concerts and workshops. But Wyant is contemplating a membership plan and wants to add an outdoor hangout space with raised-bed gardens and also spoken-word and poetry nights, lectures, and car-maintenance workshops.
Car maintenance workshops? The 7,800-square-foot warehouse currently houses a workspace and storage for vintage autos. The car operation will maintain a portion of the space, and the tenant has offered to teach mechanics courses, Boring said.
A mid-century modern building in front of the warehouse will remain a worship space for LifePoint Church.
Similar to her current venue, Wyant is planning to let mural artists decorate the walls with Boring’s blessing. She doesn’t know if the murals at her current location will remain after she leaves, but she plans to take the painted doors and use them as coffee tables.
When announcing Wyant’s move at the LEDC’s annual meeting Monday, Scruggs mentioned that several people hope to preserve the 1947 building that currently houses KRaP Art and Central Vacuum Cleaner, which will also move. He didn’t address whether the building or nearby murals will be preserved.
Scruggs told LEDC members that plans for Catapult 2.0 are progressing. Inspections found no significant structural or environmental problems at Lakeland Cash Feed, he said, and the LEDC expects to close its $850,000 purchase of the property on Friday.
Closing on the Central Vacuum Cleaner building is expected on Jan. 5.