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Creative York is looking a bit different these days, and it’s not because of the new signage out front.

Following a six-month renovation project, the nonprofit arts center in downtown York – formerly YorkArts – is now open to the public with a new project space, expanded classroom, caterer-friendly kitchen and newly installed reception desk created by local artist Peter Danko.

Creative York celebrated its soft opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony during First Friday Feb. 6 and plans to continue hosting re-opening events through April 3. The next event will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Creative York West, formerly City Art, at 5:30 p.m. March 4.

Throughout these next few months, Creative York’s new executive director Annelise Montone said visitors will notice a few changes.

Montone, who started her position Jan. 18, said one of the biggest changes is right in the name.

“Creative York is focused on the idea that anyone can be creative,” she said.

That means the organization is no longer focused only on supporting the arts in the community, but on “reaching beyond the arts in a literal fashion to reach creative people in the community of all kinds,” Montone said.

Its new mission is nurturing imagination, creativity and innovation in the community.

To accomplish this, Montone said she is making it her No. 1 priority to increase accessibility to the arts in York and increase engagement with the community.

“The biggest steps that we are taking have been our renovation process,” Montone said. “Those two (goals) really depend on having the space and infrastructure in place to do that.”

Now that the renovated arts center has double the classroom space at both Creative York and Creative York West, it can offer an expanded class schedule. More than 40 classes will be offered throughout the year – more than double the amount of YorkArts, Montone said.

That includes a new digital arts classroom, which will offer a variety of digital arts programs, such as a digital art camp, an iPad for beginners class and a stop motion class that utilizes iPads to create films that incorporate both illustration and narrative storytelling.

Two expanded pottery studios, 10 new pottery wheels and two energy-efficient kilns will also allow for a variety of pottery classes and open-studio opportunities to be offered more often throughout the year.

To view the current class schedule, visit creativeyork.org/classes.

But the coolest addition to Creative York is its new project space, Montone said. It’s a separate gallery space that accepts proposals for work that is experimental, developing, innovative and contemporary.

“We’re looking for stuff we haven’t seen here before,” she said.

In addition to being more accessible, Montone said she is also working toward increasing community engagement.

“What you’re going to start seeing from us is a lot of new initiatives,” Montone said.

One example is Creative York’s new sponsorship program, allowing people to sponsor children who want to take art classes but can’t afford them.

Visitors will also start to see more First Friday activities, demonstrations and programming corresponding to the exhibits.

“We’re focusing on bold ideas that go toward supporting our mission,” Montone said.

What initially attracted Montone to her position at Creative York were rumors of a revitalization of downtown York. She said she started to hear about some really exciting things coming out of the art community, and now that the Creative York renovations are complete and more classes are in place, she’s hoping to continue the trend. Her next big goal is to see more people signing up for classes.

“We have the space, the infrastructure,” she said. “We just need to get people in here. My big goal is to see those classes fill – not just because they are so central to the identity of this part of the community, but because the teachers are wonderful … all these class offerings are here, and I want to see people take advantage of that.”

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