A Commerce Street storefront that once was in disrepair now has new life, filled with visual arts that range from Asian-inspired black and cream canvases to bluesy abstract pieces.
With refreshments, live acoustic music by Daffani Leigh and a crowd of about 30 people, the Hinesville Area Arts Council opened its doors Monday at its county-owned facility.
“Every major city has an art presence downtown, and we wanted to follow that trend as well,” council Vice Chairwoman Jennifer Buehler said. “Every community needs to have some culture to it, and it adds entertainment to the area.”
The new space, a 1,300-square-foot open room, will be used to host events that run the gamut of arts, from exhibitions to classes to literary gatherings.
Juanita Lowery, who owned Inspirations Performance Studio before she closed its doors in June, will resume teaching dance classes to children ages 3 and older in the facility.
New Day Outreach Ministry Pastor Richard Hayes attended the event and complimented the group on its work to celebrate cultural and ethnic diversity.
“The value of art is being lost in our society, and I’m grateful that the arts council is bringing that element to the community,” he said. “It adds another aspect of more than just shopping and business and adds an artistic flavor to downtown.”
Vicki Davis, an arts council member and executive director of the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority, said she loves that the building’s rehabilitation sets a precedent for other businesses downtown.
“It’s a significant historical building in our community,” she said. “When it got to the point that previous businesses could not occupy it, my fear was that this building would follow the same trends we see too often of what is called demolition by neglect.”
Though there is a deficiency of documentation on the building’s origin, Davis said that Historic Preservation Commission member Jon Collins confirmed that the building was constructed by Gen. Joseph Bacon-Frasier between 1945 and 1949 and once was the Georgian Hotel and Tea Room.
County Administrator Joey Brown said the facility was home to Collins Pharmacy, and the county bought the building sometime during the 1980s. The Board of Tax Assessors and the Board of Elections both have used the space since then, and it has been unoccupied since the elections department moved out last year.
The county granted the nonprofit council use of the space in exchange for an estimated $13,600 in renovations to the facility over a three-year lease period, the Courier previously reported.
The nonprofit is funded primarily through the Margaret Martin Foundation, grants, membership fees and donations, according to Chairwoman Leah Poole.
Beginning Monday, the facility will be open for public viewing from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Poole said.
Lowery’s dance classes will be held Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, and prices will range from $40-$65 per month. For more information about the classes, call 332-4462.
For more information on arts council programs, go to hinesvillearts.com.