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Group Considers Vacant Building for Art Gallery
By CATHERINE STORTZ RIPLEY
April 15, 2014

[See updated council meeting 05/27/14.]

A south-facing wall at the northwest corner of Clay and Washington streets once served as a canvas for an attractive mural of Livingston County's historic Graham's Mill bridge. However, for the last couple of years, the wall has been anything but eye-pleasing. The wall was deteriorating and, for safety reasons, the mural was removed.

Now, plans are in the works to repair the wall, and a group of people have organized to not only lobby the city to get the wall fixed but to establish an art guild and gallery in Chillicothe. Carol Gregg, representing the newly-incorporated Cultural Corner Art Guild and Gallery, explained to council members during their regular meeting Monday evening at City Hall the vision which she and others have for that corner of downtown Chillicothe. She said that the organization's intent is to purchase the building as a venue for local and area member artists to display their artwork as well as provide space for them to work on their pieces and offer classes. The effort is a community development project for all ages. The core group toured several downtown buildings in search of a home for this project and became interested in the purchase of the building at 504 Washington Street, which is currently owned by Ken Mata.

"This is what we would like... for all the area artists to come and walk into that building, be a member of this art guild, have the gallery in the front part of the building where they can come and display their art. I envision painters, pottery, photographers, wood carvers... all forms of fine art. The back two-thirds would be a place where artists can come on a daily basis and work on their arts or have classes."

Gregg, along with others, were seeking a consensus from city council members to repair the wall. The city has a responsibility in getting the wall fixed because it is a party wall and the city owns the green space, according to City Attorney Robert Cowherd. Initial estimates put the cost of repairs around $30,000. The CDC has already announced a $10,000 commitment to fund the mural.

There are around 70 members who are now part of the Cultural Corner Art Guild and Gallery. A few of them attended Monday night's meeting, including Kris Daniel and Steve Holt, as well as Micah Landes from Main Street Chillicothe. Daniel explained to council members that the mission statement of the organization is to educate, encourage, and inspire the community in the development of art by providing a dynamic and supportive venue for exhibits, programs to bring artists together and workshops and instruction which foster the creative process. "We already have an agreement worked out with the building owner," Daniel said. "We've come to great terms, but one of the contingencies on signing the contract is that we have a commitment from the city that the building will be repaired," Daniel said. She said the project would fill an empty downtown space and would be a great addition to Chillicothe. "We have so many artists in this town and we need a venue," she said.

Holt, who has been a wood carver since 1986, organized a carving club last fall with around 15 active participants ranging in age from 10 to 83. He said a facility such as this building could be used for working sessions, display and teaching classes. Gregg said the facility could be an incubator project for artists to bring in their artwork for sale and display and that the group could also incorporate the park with arts activities and bring more people to the downtown area.

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