Carnegie Visual Arts Center

New Fundraising Campaign Under Way for Carnegie Visual Arts Center

By • Jan 17th, 2003 • Category: News

By Patrice Stewart DAILY Staff Writer

Turning the former Carnegie Library into a visual arts center is getting closer to reality, with restoration expected to start in a few weeks.

A new drive to attract individual donors with art event invitations has just begun, while several large donations have moved the fund-raising effort toward its goal, said Carnegie Visual Arts Center project coordinator Kim Mitchell.

Suggested donations include $1,000 for the Grand Club Level, including exhibit and art auction preview parties, “Meet the Artist” receptions, newsletter, lapel pin, special art class rates and gift shop discounts. At $500, the Monet Level includes art auction preview parties and the newsletter; the O’Keefe Level at $250 includes a newsletter.

“Jean Rankin of our campaign committee just sent out a lot of letters about these opportunities to help fund the center,” said Ms. Mitchell. “She grew up without an art education center. She likes to paint now, but she feels the world of art would have opened for her much earlier if there had been a visual arts center nearby.”

Wanted: Grand Club 100
Ms. Mitchell would like to get 100 members for the Grand Club Level before the end of the year to put the capital campaign over its goal of $1 million. “You can do a stock transfer, credit card, one-time cash donation or monthly pledge — whatever is most comfortable for you,” she said.

“We have $930,000 pledged toward that goal since starting this campaign last December. Daikin is the largest contributor at $60,000 plus a Japanese painting valued at $25,000, while Boeing has given us $40,000,” she said. One individual has contributed $150,000, and many other businesses, industries, individuals, government and foundations have helped. Grants also are being sought.

“The city of Decatur is loaning us money so we can go ahead and start construction in the next few weeks. The city owns the building, but 95 percent of the money is coming from the community,” said Ms. Mitchell.

A $652,000 contract for updating and restoring the library building at 207 Church St. N.E. has just been awarded to Baggette Construction Inc. of Decatur, and a pre-construction conference is scheduled Thursday. “I will be standing on my head if we don’t start construction before Christmas,” said Ms. Mitchell, who hopes the work will be completed by the end of the summer.

‘Emotionally attached’
Architects are Roger Cartwright and Chris Faulkner of Sherlock, Smith and Adams of Birmingham. “I’ve been working with them on this since 1996, and they are emotionally attached to this project — staying up at night worrying about who will repoint the brick.

“The building was constructed in 1905 as part of railroad industrialist Andrew Carnegie’s dream to build libraries in small towns across America. The structure served as Decatur’s library until 1973, when Wheeler Basin Regional Library opened, and was later leased by First Baptist Church.

The hardwood floors on the main floor will be restored and all the wood in the windows will be replaced, while a skylight will be added in the main gallery and an elevator installed as required by law.

Walls will be removed downstairs to create one large classroom for art classes, said Ms. Mitchell. The number of restrooms will increase from two to four, and there will be a kitchen and office space. “We plan on two employees and lots of volunteers.”

In addition to local art on display, there will be traveling exhibits and partnerships with work on loan from the Huntsville Museum of Art and others. The building also will be available for receptions and business events.

“The great thing about the Carnegie Visual Arts Center is how many people it will affect, with students coming to the center on field trips, artists-in-residence who will go out into the schools, and programs and classes for senior citizens, adults and youth,” Ms. Mitchell said.

The Decatur Art Guild is excited about getting a local space for displaying work by its artists and holding classes. Eight members painted their versions of the Carnegie, and they have been made into note cards, with proceeds going to the restoration.

To order a packet of eight cards, send a check for $12 to Decatur Art Guild, P.O. Box 662, Decatur, AL 35602, or call 355-8443. Requests for donor brochures or checks, which are tax-exempt to the extent allowed by law, may be sent to the Decatur Arts Council, Attention Car-negie Visual Arts Center, P.O. Box 173, Decatur, AL 35602. For more information, call Ms. Mitchell and other volunteers at 341-0562 or 584-0278.

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