Former school building to become London Art Center

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Drawing by Judy Dillon-Smith
The London Visual Arts Guild is renovating a former school building at 121 E. First St. to serve as its new London Art Center.

(Posted March 27, 2020)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

More space to make and display more art. That’s the idea behind the London Visual Arts Guild’s (LVAG) forthcoming move to a new location.

Since its start in 2008, the non-profit has been hosting exhibits, holding classes, and offering workspace to artists of all ages at Gallery on High, 5 E. High St., and Studio 7, 7 E. High St., in London. The guild’s lease at these locations expires at the end of April, after which the group will move to 121 E. First St.

The new location, to be named the London Art Center, is a one-story brick building on the former London City Schools campus, now owned by the city of London. The building once was home to the school district’s vocational, agriculture, and art classes. It has sat empty since the school district vacated the downtown campus.

“It’s at least three times the size of the space we have now,” said Sandy Fox, LVAG vice president, also noting that the new location comes with plenty of parking.

The space is divided into three large rooms and several smaller spaces. The large rooms will house the guild’s gallery, gift shop and classroom for adults, and children’s classroom and display area. The smaller spaces will be used for artist workspace, one-on-one instruction, small group classroom space, and storage. The building also includes a small kitchen.

The guild is leasing the space from the city.

“I think they will be great tenants. They do so much for the city. They are one of the hidden gems of London,” said London Mayor Pat Closser. “Giving them more space will let them expand and get more exposure and increase the arts for the community even more than they already have.”

Tony Reeder and Josie Harris work on a remodeling project at the London Visual Arts Guild’s new space.

Originally, the group was to take occupancy in October of last year, but the building has no heat. The city is working on getting a gas line installed so that furnaces can go in.

In the meantime, guild volunteers are remodeling what they can. The have removed old fixtures and unneeded items, done some painting, started drywall installation, and modified the side entrance to the gallery for easier access.

Grant funding is helping to cover costs. The Ohio Arts Council awarded the guild $2,750 in matching funds for lighting and the construction of display units for sculpture and other three-dimensional art pieces.

“We’ve never had room for sculptures and 3-D art before,” Fox said.

Stanley Electric in London awarded the guild $5,000 for costs associated with transition to the new space. Several other donations, large and small, plus proceeds from a fall fundraiser are making the remodeling project possible.

Fox said she does not know when the new art center will open. Timing will depend on completion of the furnace project and the status of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For now, guild members are looking forward to hosting a combined show in August. They plan to merge their 6th Annual Community Show, originally scheduled for May 14-June 14, with their annual Member Show, scheduled for Aug. 1-30.

The Community Show welcomes submissions from the public. New entry deadlines and drop-off dates will be announced at a later date.

As for how the community can help with the new space or operations, Fox said input is greatly welcomed.

“Let us know what you’d like to see us do with the space,” she said. “What kind of classes and events would you like to see? What would get you interested in the arts and bring the community together?”

For more information or to offer input, contact Sandy Fox at (937) 207-7400. Go to londonvisualartsguild.org for details and updates.

London Visual Arts Guild’s board of directors includes: Elizabeth Lassel, president; Sandy Fox, vice president; Kim Burdette, treasurer; Mick Harris, secretary; Bob Rea, Pam Stanforth and Colleen VanSteen, directors.

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