Positioned on a three-sided lot bounded by St. Ferdinand and Somerulos streets and Louisiana Avenue, the structure that once served as a home for the district attorney’s office will get a modern makeover as the Cary Saurage Community Arts Center, as shown in this rendering by Ritter Maher Architects. Courtesy Ritter Maher Architects.

Taking shape: The Triangle Building downtown will be transformed into an arts hub

Imagine an artist-centric haven with innovative space anyone can use to create, inspire and share their talent with other likeminded individuals right here in the Capital City.

That’s what’s arriving on the Baton Rouge arts scene in December 2020 with the grand opening of the Cary Saurage Community Arts Center. The center will serve as the new headquarters of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge and offer affordable and accessible artist-centered space.

Even Renee Chatelain, CEO and president of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge, can hardly envision all the wonderful things that will take place in the Cary Saurage Community Arts Center. “To see that come to fruition after so many years of planning is very exciting for me, and I am so looking forward to all the things that I didn’t know could happen in the building happening,” Chatelain says.

The nonprofit organization—with a mission to foster the creative capacity and vibrancy of the Capital Region through advocacy, resources and education—will triple its square footage by moving from its current location at the Robert A. Bogan Fire Museum on Laurel Street to the midcentury downtown building known as the “Triangle Building” on St. Ferdinand Street.

The top-to-bottom transformation will create a 1,200-square-foot rooftop terrace, along with two interior floors featuring an art gallery, a recording studio, an artist co-op, a black box theater, and the Arts Council’s new headquarters. Courtesy Ritter Maher Architects.

Currently, interior demolition and abatement of the vacant building have been completed and the new center’s design, by Ritter Maher Architects, is in the final stages, says Chatelain. Construction should begin this month, she says.

In addition to the Arts Council’s administrative headquarters, the $2.5-million, 12,000-square-foot Cary Saurage Community Arts Center will house an art gallery, an artist co-op area, a recording studio, a black box theater and a rooftop terrace with an enclosed room for meetings or workspace. The terrace, with views of the Mississippi River and Beauregard Town, will be available to the public for events.

By offering much-needed artist workspace, the new arts center will retain local talent and keep the Capital City’s cultural identity strong, Chatelain says. The center’s recording studio will allow musicians, performers and those in the film industry to stay in Baton Rouge to record instead of traveling to other cities, she says. “We wanted that to be able to happen in Baton Rouge,” Chatelain says.

The Cary Saurage Community Arts Center goes “beyond just serving the art sector,” Chatelain says. This revitalization of the building, the former home of the district attorney’s office and empty for the past two years, raises the profile of downtown and serves as a regional draw, she says.

Public fundraising is set to kick off this month, and the Arts Council will offer numerous platforms to donate, Chatelain says. Those interested in helping subsidize artist workspace or who want to donate can visit the Arts Council website at artsbr.org.

The council’s construction fundraising goal is $3 million, of which $2.6 million has been pledged. That amount includes a $1 million pledge from the Saurage family, who owns Community Coffee, in honor of Cary Saurage, a longtime patron of the arts for whom the building is named, Chatelain says.

Chatelain says it is the organization’s dream to raise a total of $5 million to cover additional costs and a sustainability fund that will, in part, help fund grants to artists and arts organizations using the building to create new work with significant community impact.