After years of fundraising, construction and political sparring, Worthington finally has its own arts center.

After years of fundraising, construction and political sparring, Worthington finally has its own arts center.

Located on the edge of the Thomas Worthington High School campus, the Peggy R. McConnell Arts Center of Worthington isn't just the climax of a decade-old dream project for local leaders including City Council president Lou Goorey and his wife Nancy, who ran the capital campaign. It also represents a massive reinvention of its home building, a decrepit school district property that was to be bulldozed before it was sold to the city for renovation.

Inside, the basic brick square is now contemporary but likely to age well. It holds a gallery, the 200-plus-seat Bronwyn Theater, classrooms, studio space, a meeting room and administrative offices. Aside from the elevator shaft, enclosed in a bright red, sculpturally angular tower that stands at the front entrance, it's mainly clean lines and polished woods, with copious light coming through walls of windows.

The center christened its performance space with a Six Strings presentation of folk duo Storyhill on Oct. 17. Its gallery opened Oct. 22 with a show by Worthington resident and wood sculptor Dorothy Gill Barnes, whose work plays beautifully on the natural qualities of the medium and seems right at home in the space.

But the official, ribbon-cutting opening doesn't take place until Nov. 8, and in many ways, the building is still a relatively blank canvas, waiting to be filled by students, artists and performance groups from Worthington and the area at large.

Executive director Jon Cook explained that the center's primary concern is the needs and wants of local residents, but he believes it can expand the options for local theater groups who need a stage, and artists who want to do more than show work. Proposals are currently being accepted for exhibitions, performances and educational opportunities.

"I think this is going to fill a need that exists, as far as size, location, affordability," Cook said. "It's a great music space; it's also a wonderful space for a small theater company.

"On the educational side of it, I'm envisioning someone who just got their MFA degree, who'll have an opportunity to teach and have an exhibit," he added.

According to Cook, brainstorming is underway to form collaborations between the center and the school district, such as curated shows of student artwork or programming for schools by artists scheduled for public concerts.

The center is also preparing a schedule of classes for both hobbyists and adults hoping for a new career. As Cook explained, it also holds a fully computer-equipped studio, and soon it will offer vocational training in digital imaging, animation and web design.