County’s first multi-use cultural arts facility expected to open by end of year; Local fundraising campaign kicks off in February
The arts will soon have new home in Stokes County.
Stokes County Arts Council Executive Director Eddy McGee on Monday officially announced plans to renovate a building in Danbury into new cultural arts center.
The new center, located in the building next to the arts council’s current offices and the Apple Gallery, will provide expanded retail space, performance space, artist’s studios and classroom areas.
“While we enjoy being called the gorilla arts council and providing programs throughout the county we need a larger office and home and the current location is not providing enough space for us and our artists,” said McGee.
He said the new three-story facility will allow the arts council to expand what it offers to the community and serve as an anchor for tourism and economic development around the Hanging Rock area.
“This will be Stokes County’s first multi-purpose arts center,” said McGee. “On the main floor there will be a retail arts market where local artists can sell photography, paintings, pottery, stained glass, jewelry, CD’s, fiber arts and many other creations. That will operate as a permanent gallery space.”
He said the Apple Gallery will continue to operate as space to highlight specific artists with monthly shows.
“The retail space will provide us with more opportunities for local artists to make money, but we also want to use it to support local agriculture,” he said. “So we will also be selling local sweet potato butter, truffle butter, jams, jellies, honey and milled products.
“We will also have a tourism kiosk in that space where folks coming through can pick up tourism related memorabilia like t-shirts, coffee cups and anything to do with local tourism,” said McGee.
Behind the retail space will be a performance area that will offer flexible seating for over 200 attendees.
“We will have a portable stage,” said McGee, noting that there would be seating on the main floor as well as standing room for concert goers on a balcony space on the second floor.
“We will also have a Stokes County Arts Council VIP area on the second floor where members will get special privileges during performances,” said McGee.
The second floor will also be home to artists studios that can be rented for artists who do not have room for their craft at home or want to share their process with patrons.
In the basement level the facility will have classroom space for regular arts workshops as well as a prep kitchen with a dumbwaiter to provide food during performances.
“We will have visual arts classes and workshops that will include pottery, basket weaving, painting, photography and stained glass,” said McGee, noting that he suspects some form of class or workshop could be offered on a weekly basis. “We will also have instruction for drama and music with traditional instruments.”
In addition to regular classes the Arts Council plans to use the performance space to provide music or drama performances every weekend.
“We want to tailor it to the Hanging Rock visitors,” said McGee. “If they are spending the night up there then we need concerts and things for them to do to bring them down to spend money in the county.
“This is not just an arts project,” he added. “This is economic development, this is tourism, this is heritage. This is who we are.”
McGee said the Arts Council would continue to provide programming throughout the county, but noted the new arts center would provide a base that would be easier to work from.
McGee said plans for the new facility had been in the works for years as the council sought funding sources to be able to make it a reality.
“The initial contributor was the Apple Foundation,” said McGee. “They got us off the ground and we have continued to do outside-of-the-county fundraising that has been successful, but now it is time Stokes County to invest in the project.”
McGee said that so far the Arts Council has raised over $800,000 toward their goal of $1.3 million for the project. He said those funds would enable them to start the construction process, but that they still needed to raise about half a million dollars locally to ensure the center would be able to operate properly and be successful in its first couple of years of existence.
Stokes County Arts Council President Ellen Peric said they would be hosting several events in February that would give potential local donors a chance to learn more about the project and invest in its future.
“We want to invite people from the community who have supported us to come and see a video showing why we need this space,” she said, noting that the presentation would also include a 3D model of what the finished center would look like. “We will ask them at that time to make a commitment. We have designed packages where people can give over a five year time period.
“We have folks who are great to us, but this is the time where people from all over the community can step up and say this is worth investing in,” she added.
McGee said so far the majority of funding had come from foundations outside of the county including the Apple Foundation, the Golden Leaf Foundation, The Appalachian Regional Commission,the Reynolds Foundation, the Duke Energy Foundation, the Canon Foundation and the Dixon Foundation.
“What has been so wonderful is to have these contributors funding the project because they know what this will mean to Stokes County residents,” said McGee. “They understand the importance of it and want to see it succeed. We want Stokes County residents to invest in it as well and to be as excited about it as we are and as others outside of the county are.”
He noted that during the fundraising campaign there would be opportunities for major contributes to have naming rights to various parts of the new facility and that some form of recognition for all major donors would be displayed in the completed facility.
Construction time line
McGee said the architectural designs for the new facility are complete and he hopes to begin pre-qualifying contractors for the project in the next couple of weeks.
“They will submit bids in February and we will award the bid contract in March,” said MecGee. “We are hoping to break ground in late March or early April.”
He said construction should not interfere with business in downtown Danbury.
“We hope to have the new center open in November or December of this year,” he added.
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.