Betty Jayne Brimmer Center for the Performing Arts
WHERE: Betty Jayne Brimmer Center for the Performing Arts / 1327 East Kelly Avenue / Peoria Heights, IL
WHAT: An adaptive reuse of a mid-century public library previously renovated into an office building. The latest conversion creates a vibrant community performing arts venue located at the intersection of a popular walkable downtown and a pleasant residential neighborhood.
The ‘Betty Jayne’ is a new cultural hub for the community and the first of a series of projects planned by visionary and philanthropist Kim Blickenstaff. Blickenstaff’s mission is to build and rebuild vibrant walkable communities, and the Betty Jayne fits perfectly with his goal of strengthening the Village of Peoria Heights by animating local streets and neighborhoods. Blickenstaff, a connoisseur of architectural design and local history, loved the mid-century building at first sight and quickly became a fan of other works by its original architect, Richard Doyle. The ‘Betty Jayne’ is coined in his mother’s namesake who was a well-known acrobatic dancer (think ballroom dancing…on a high-wire).
Opened this summer, the venue hosts a variety of live performances including music, theater, children’s events, comedy, dance and social functions. While this community is known for its shopping and restaurant options, the Betty Jayne fills a void for the performing arts and has brought the community together for various cultural alternatives. The venue is multi-purpose and can be casual for events such as children’s musicals, ballet or elegant, jazz ensembles.
Central to the venue is an expansive operable glass wall at the front of the building that can be recoiled allowing guests to spill out onto the front lawn to create a communal, neighborhood social event.
The building renovation offers historical character and elegance. The renovation stripped its original interior finish and was painted to become a ‘black box’ theater allowing performers to be showcased at the forefront. Materials were re-used from its library service, with a new full-service bar using the original library circulation desk as its inspiration and shelving from former wood dividers that held vinyl LPs.
· While this community is growing and thriving, it was missing cultural activities forcing people to go elsewhere for music, performing arts and theater. The Betty Jayne brings a new opportunity for people to congregate to celebrate and enjoy the performing arts in a sophisticated yet casual atmosphere.
· The glass wall at the front of the building opens into an open-air venue which allows spectators to sit on the lawn and look into the building mimicking an amphitheater. Adjacent to the residential neighborhood, it creates the feel of a neighborhood block party, adjacent to the walkable downtown, it is a cultural hub.
· Rather than formal seating, the Betty Jayne’s intimate setting allows people to ‘mingle’ casually and circulate throughout the building, fostering a people connection that encourages social participation…a place to see and be seen.
· As a former community library, the venue is an established ‘communal hub’ for locals. Folks know the building and can appreciate the reuse of materials from its service as a library strategically placed throughout that has been transformed into a sophisticated performance venue.
· The Betty Jayne has a mix of performance arts including free events for families (Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast); social events such as the Bluegrass, Bourbon and Barbeque event; Sunday Morning Jazz Brunch and an upcoming performance by Marshall Crenshaw and jazz/blues singer Judy Page.
· Fulfilling the goal of the developer, the venue fits the objective of walkable streets and neighborhoods. The Betty Jayne is nestled among a vibrant entertainment district, allowing guests to walk from place to place to make a full day or evening of activities.