This post appeared first on my art blog Libertas Americana Art. You can read relevant posts here.
I want to save an old building in my community. Last year, I ran a crowdfunding campaign to raise the money for a historic renovation project that would ultimately result in me having an art studio with enough room to expand my business as an artist and offer creative events for my community. This is my story…
I grew up in the historic city of St. Augustine and attended a fine art college in Savannah. In many ways I was born old, and a love for historic places has been ingrained in my personality and perspective my entire life.
While earning a degree in illustration, I discovered that I also enjoy telling a story. Since graduating, I have lived in many old houses on the ‘rough’ side of town, drawn there by the character of old molding and multiple layers of paint.
My penchant for graphics and story-telling that hearken back to my illustration training often peek through the layers of paint and mixed media of my current fine art pieces. The story will be told, you see, regardless of the medium.
Since moving to a rural community, old wood and salvage materials have become part of my palette, adding a tangible historic element to my art. I often include national icons or famous quotes in my work. These are even more striking with distinctive wood grain peeking through paint washes and flag graphics.
Since writing this post, I have moved on to an expanded series of bird paintings that will broaden the story told by my crow series. I will continue to create the Americana works for limited shows at the Quinlan, where that subject is quite popular.
The city of Commerce, though passed over in many ways by the progress of time and economic development, is a jewel of historic beauty and potential. The remaining buildings of the original main street that once bustled with commerce are the center point to beautiful historic homes throughout the surrounding neighborhoods.
It is this beauty that drew me and my family here. The slower pace and community-oriented environment has allowed me to thrive as an artist and become an active participant in the community.
Perhaps you are familiar with The Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Ann Burns. It is well worth the read and provides a very accurate description of our town, once known as Harmony Grove.
If you were to drive through town now, you would see an emerging effort to install art on previously forgotten places. Murals are popping up over boarded up windows, along walls that previously kept pedestrians from stepping into abandoned and trash-strewn lots or crumbling buildings, and across the rear entrances to existing businesses, brightening up rear parking lots and alleys. A spirit for beauty and renewal is here – it just needs to expand into a community-wide effort.
Now that I am outgrowing a home studio, I am turning my sights to acquiring a historic building on main street for a professional studio space. The first step in ‘My Big Dream’ is to restore a bank building, circa 1900, to its original open floor plan and facade.
The second phase of my project will include providing space to friend and fellow artist, Katie Griffin, for a professional photography studio. Katie, like me, is currently limited by working from home. Having a building on main street will give us a place to meet clients and increase our individual creative businesses.
My big plans don’t stop there. I want to invite existing businesses to organize art walks, drawing people into our community and sharing it’s beauty. I want to use my building as a hub for workshops and trunk shows that showcase the talents of local and regional artists.
Finally, I want to set an example for the community of the potential that is being squandered in the neglected and abandoned buildings around town. I want to save one, restore it to it’s previous beauty – it’s currently covered with stucco and split into 70’s paneled offices with low ceilings – and hopefully spark a community-wide effort at historic preservation.
This is my story, my passion, and my vision for rebirth in my community. Help me tell my story to a wider audience and keep a piece of small town America alive.
This post has been edited and updated since the original posting.