State of the Arts 2012
CultureMap Video

Raw transformation: An exclusive first look at DiverseWorks' new Midtown art venue

Raw transformation: An exclusive first look at DiverseWorks' new Midtown art venue

The building that previously housed the beloved Cleburne Cafeteria on the corner of Fannin and Cleburne streets looks nothing like it did back in 1969 when the eatery closed in the location. Then again, it looks nothing like it did eight months ago when it was acquired in November by a group of investors (who wish to remain anonymous) and developed as Art Square Studios on Fannin by Kaldis Development Interests.

The exterior is no longer the rust color of brick. It has been painted white. A dark graphite hue on the soffits and fascia accentuates the roof line, windows and dormers. The color of the shingles fools the eye into thinking they are clay tile — they aren't.

This is the future residence of DiverseWorks Artspace, officially at 4102 Fannin St. — though the art presenter's entrance is accessible from Cleburne, where street parking is available.

"We wanted to be a part of this," Elizabeth Dunbar, DiverseWorks executive director, tells CultureMap on an impromptu tour of the premises. Dunbar was referring to her neighbors on the other side of the building— the artists who will occupy 21 work spaces in Art Square, where only two vacant spaces remain. 

 A huge, fresh air shared parking lot/patio where guests attending receptions, parties and socials could easily get carried away.

"It's important to become a part of this revival in preparation for the (proposed) Independent Arts Collaborative (at 3400 Main St., less than half-a-mile away)."

DiverseWorks' facade is a long uninspiring solid wall with a couple of doors — though not for long. Designer Kara Rockefeller Williams, the consultant helping Dunbar partition the open concept, plans to add lots of glass to the front and to the sides in places where windows originally hung to bring in natural light.

Inside, a door leads to an exterior alley from which the offices, a work in progress, can be accessed. The most exciting feature is on the second floor: A huge, open air parking lot/patio where guests attending receptions, parties and socials can easily get carried away.

Though the 5,500 raw warehouse is a blank slate, it's about half the size of DiverseWorks' current home just north of downtown. Dunbar thinks the new property can be divided into a visual arts gallery and a performing arts area that can accommodate up to 100 guests, coming close to the 110-seat capacity of the current location.

Her goal is to program many site-specific performances that won't require a physical theater.

But for larger shows that require a theater space, she's open to the possibility of renting other venues, like Barnevelder Movement/Arts Complex or maybe returning to DiverseWorks' former home, for which Catastrophic Theatre is considering signing a lease, she says. 

Catastrophic's officials declined to comment on these proceedings, but they acknowledged that they are exploring a myriad of possibilities, and that the company's next show will be at Frenetic Theater on Navigation.

Watch the video (above) for a short tour of the DiverseWorks new home at 4102 Fannin St.

DiverseWorks Artspace Tour
The future residence of DiverseWorks Artspace at 4102 Fannin St. Photo by Joel Luks
DiverseWorks Artspace Tour
Though the 5,500 raw warehouse is a blank slate, it's about half the size of DiverseWorks' current home just north of downtown. Photo by Joel Luks
DiverseWorks Artspace Tour
Windows will be added where they originally hung to bring in natural light. Photo by Joel Luks
DiverseWorks Artspace Tour
Executive director Elizabeth Dunbar wanted to be a part of Midtown revival and this building, which has been renovated to house 21 artist studios. Photo by Joel Luks
DiverseWorks Artspace Tour
DiverseWorks Artspace Tour
DiverseWorks Artspace Tour
DiverseWorks Artspace Tour