By: Lorrie Ward | Category: Other | Issue: April 2014
Heather Hartness and Karl Engel at the old Franklin Hospital.
The word “repurpose” has become popular in the decorating and antique community, as people have begun taking old items and using them to create new items with new uses. In fact, repurposing is considered by many to be an art form – which makes it all the more fitting that the old Franklin Hospital building on Patti Page Boulevard and Perdue Street in Claremore will soon be repurposed into a building for artists.
Local artist and craftsman Karl Engel bought the building a couple of years ago and since that time has worked with his partner, Heather Hartness, to clean and prepare the inside of the building for restructure. Karl calls this endeavor the “Art Energy Project” as he and Heather would like to “build a community of artists to inspire each other and create art energy.”
“The Art Energy Project will be a working model for children and artists to see from the ground up how art is made, shown, appreciated and sold – and to grow and support local artists,” Karl says. “Our dream is to provide personal studios for artists to rent, so that artists will have a wonderful place to work with a support team and a gallery to sell from, and the public will be able to meet them and see their works in progress.”
In addition to studios, the building will house an art gallery, art classroom, and a room dedicated to the history of Franklin Hospital. Both residents and outside artists will be invited to display their work in the gallery. The classroom area will host art classes for children, which is a part of the project that is especially dear to Heather’s heart. “I’m excited at the prospect of working with the kids,” says Heather, an artist who draws and paints. “Children are so free with their art and aren’t worried about making mistakes, which is how art should be – about freedom of expression, not worrying about if it’s messy or right or wrong.”
The project has been a true labor of love for Karl and Heather, who have worked steadily on clean-up of the building and are now concentrating more on the actual restructuring process. They plan to preserve as much of the building’s character as possible. They will rework the old wood floor and supplement with salvaged planks where needed. Since they bought the building, they have collected brick from demolished structures to help fill in missing areas on the hospital building. Many new walls will have to be erected inside the building, but they will use as much of the existing skeleton frame as possible and are even leaving some of the old plaster on the walls (some of it with burn marks from a fire from decades ago) for flavor. Even the basement of the building will be put to good use, possibly as a clay workshop.
The Franklin Hospital was built in 1927 by Dr. F.B. Collins. It was a place where countless babies were born and needed surgeries and other medical procedures were performed. Dr. and Mrs. Collins lived on the first floor, and the second floor was dedicated completely to medicine. A long ramp led from the first to the second floor so that patients could easily be moved. The ramp is still in place and Karl and Heather plan to preserve it. They also plan to have a book where people can come and write their stories about the Franklin Hospital, so that even more history can be preserved through this project.
Enthusiasm for the Art Energy Project has stretched beyond the local community. Karl and Heather entered the “Dream Big Oklahoma” contest in the Green Country sector and are among four finalists to receive a $5,000 grant. If they win on the regional level, they will qualify for the statewide competition. If you are interested in finding out how you can help with this worthy endeavor, please contact Karl Engel at (918) 551-9536.
For more information, contact