Watauga Arts Council move likely
The Watauga County Arts Council received tentative approval
Tuesday to lease a county-owned building for two years in tandem with other local nonprofits — but
the move will not be immediate.
The arts council asked Watauga County commissioners to allow the nonprofit to use the former New River Behavioral HealthCare building at the corner of State Farm Road and Shadowline Drive. The council asked for a five-year lease at $1 per year.
“We are convinced we can fill this building to the brim with wonderful experiences for a lot of folks in Watauga County,” said Watauga County Arts Council executive director Cherry Johnson.
She said the council would like to use the building as the Blue Ridge ArtSpace, combining with the Michael R. Patricelli Craft Enrichment Program, the Appalachian State University Community Music School and possibly the Watauga Education Foundation.
Pat Lanno, president of the council’s board of directors, said the space would host four galleries, art and music classes, offices and a gift shop.
The commissioners were not interested in leasing the building — which is currently for sale — for that long, but did express interest in a two-year lease.
Chairman Nathan Miller also opposed portions of the proposal that would: allow the arts council to sublease the building; give the arts council a right of first refusal; and require the county to pay for maintenance and repairs.
He said he believed that each of the organizations involved should sign the lease.
Miller also suggested that the county might not offer the typical $8,800 annual allocation to the arts council during the next budget cycle because of the lease deal.
The commissioners directed county attorney Four Eggers to write up a draft lease to consider at the next meeting April 16. If the board of commissioners approves the lease at the meeting, the lease must be advertised to the public for 10 days before it becomes effective.
Meanwhile, Lanno said she would return to the board of directors to present the proposed changes to board members and see whether they were still interested.
The Watauga County Arts Council moved from the Jones House on King Street in May 2012 and began using three donated office, gallery and warehouse spaces. The organization learned late last week that it must move from the current gallery space by April 15, because the landlord has found another tenant.
The lease option, if approved, will not likely occur in time for the arts council to move straight into the new space.
“I thought that you had a few months … but you’ve really got a few minutes,” commissioner David Blust said.
Arts council supporters, who filled the commissioners’ board room, applauded after the action Tuesday morning.