A sign on the West Atlantic Street entrance to the Doling School advertises that Springfield Public Schools has the building up for sale. (Photo by Rance Burger)

The plan was to “offer secure, functional work space for artists and creative workers in a supportive community setting,” according to the website for New Moon Studio Space.

Kate Baird, a local artist, and her husband Mike Stevens, executive director of the Moxie Cinema, announced plans last winter for the New Moon Studio Space. They haven’t given up on their dream of creating a place where artists can work and hone their crafts, but it won’t happen at the former Doling Elementary School.

In February, the Springfield City Council voted to grant a conditional use permit for the “adaptive use of a nonresidential structure,” at the former school, with the idea that Stevens and Baird would continue negotiations to buy the building and turn it into the artisan work space.

On Aug. 4, Baird told the Springfield Daily Citizen that the project will not go forward because they could not come up with enough financing to buy the building from Springfield Public Schools.

“We’re in a phase of regrouping and keeping our eyes peeled for a location that looks like it could work, probably on a smaller scale than Doling was,” Baird said.

Built in 1916, the Doling School sits at the corner of North Nettleton Avenue and West Atlantic Street in Springfield. (Photo by Rance Burger)

Greene County Assessor’s Office records show the Springfield R-12 School District owns the 2.57 acres of property at 1423 West Atlantic Street and the main school building has 28,011 square feet of space. The elementary school closed in 2002, but the district used the building for other purposes. The property is listed for sale for $425,000, and it is zoned single family residential.

Baird and Stevens had planned to take the empty school and turn it into a place where artisans and artists could work outside of their homes, basements and garages, and work in a collaborative environment with others. Spaces would be offered up for rent with a range of sizes and prices.

Baird and Stevens had an ambitious plan to open the studio this year.

“We certainly had some frustration just having invested a lot of time and energy in a project that we ultimately weren’t able to make happen, but the long and short of it was that we couldn’t get financing to do the project,” Baird said. “At the end of the day it was just too expensive of a project for it to look good on the spreadsheet for a bank.”

Inside a classroom at the former Doling Elementary School during an open house held on September 10, 2021. (Photo by Shannon Cay Bowers)

The idea for New Moon Studio Space was born from a painter’s fruitless search for studio space in Springfield, and gained the support of the Springfield Regional Arts Council, the Moon City Creative District and the Woodland Heights Neighborhood Association. 

Baird and Stevens haven’t given up on their dream of making a place where artists can create, but it won’t happen at the old school.

“It’s totally off the table for the Doling site, but we certainly still believe in the concept and the need, and that there’s demand for it,” Baird said.

Baird said there is no suitable site identified at the moment. Because of the issues with financing, the project did not progress into any planning and zoning phases or any work under the jurisdiction of the Springfield Department of Building Development Services.

“We never started construction work,” Baird said.

According to a 2018 story in the Springfield News-Leader, the Doling School was built in 1916. At one point, a developer proposed a plan to redevelop the building into a senior housing facility, but the deal did not go through. It was also at one time the headquarters of Springfield’s Parents As Teachers program.

The Doling School. (Photo by Rance Burger)

Rance Burger

Rance Burger covers local government for the Daily Citizen. His goal is to help people know more about what projects their government is involved in, and how their tax dollars are being spent. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with 15 years experience in journalism. Reach him at rburger@sgfcitizen.org or by calling 417-837-3669. Twitter: @RanceBurger More by Rance Burger