Watauga Arts Council seeks new location
The Watauga County Arts Council may have a new home once again.
Executive director Cherry Johnson will present a proposal Tuesday to the Watauga County Board of Commissioners to team with at least two other nonprofits to lease a county-owned building for $1 per year.
If approved, the former New River Behavioral HealthCare building, located at 377 Shadowline Drive in Boone, would be used as the Blue Ridge ArtSpace. The space could host four galleries, art and music classes, offices and a gift shop, according to the proposal.
Johnson called the timing of the plan serendipitous, as the Arts Council learned Thursday night that its current donated gallery space on King Street would no longer be available after mid-April.
"We are praying, crossing every digit we've got -- whatever works -- that we are going to be able to convince (commissioners) to lease that space ASAP," Johnson said.
Since moving out of the Jones House in downtown Boone in May 2012, the arts council has been an organization in transition. Community members donated or offered low rates on three spaces: office space at the Appalachian Enterprise Center, gallery and gift shop space on King Street and warehouse storage space from Cheap Joe's Art Supplies.
Since its move, the arts council board and staff also have been re-examining the 32-year-old nonprofit's priorities and its future, Johnson said.
Johnson said she started thinking last fall that the former New River building, which is currently up for sale, would make a great spot for arts-related activities.
The arts council discussed the prospect with leaders of the Michael R. Patricelli Craft Enrichment Program and the Community Music School, which are currently based at ASU but need additional space, Johnson said.
Both were interested in a potential move, she said.
The arts council is also talking with the Watauga Education Foundation, which may also be interested in combining to use the building jointly.
While the location isn't in a bustling area for walk-in traffic, Johnson said she thinks putting several nonprofits together will help them build off one another's successes.
"I think we're going to help each other to make people more aware," she said.
The arts council is asking the county to lease the space for $1 per year for five years, with the arts council covering utilities, insurance and minor renovations and the county covering structural upkeep and grounds.
Johnson said the Arts Council doesn't have the funds to lease the building at market rates, which could be closer to $10 to $18 per square foot.
The board of commissioners could do several things at its meeting Tuesday, including accepting the proposal, negotiating the terms, using the building for other county uses or denying the request and continuing to offer the building for sale.
Johnson said the arts council has explored other options in case the proposal is not accepted.
Time is of the essence; the arts council's current space in the "green building" at the corner of King and Water streets needs to be vacated soon to make way for a coffee shop, Johnson said.
The board of commissioners meeting begins at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Watauga County Administration Building at 814 W. King St. in Boone.