Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Kentuck Art Center Raising Money to Restore Building That Closed after Bat Infestation

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Kentuck Art Center Raising Money to Restore Building That Closed after Bat Infestation

Article excerpt

With about $700,000 already pledged for extensive renovations, the Kentuck Art Center announced Friday the start of a capital campaign to raise an additional $400,000, for a total goal of $1.1 million.

The money will go to complete restoration of the central Kentuck building at 503 Main Ave. in Northport, which closed in 2013 after a bat infestation. Closer inspection revealed serious structural flaws.

The Kentuck board members struggled for some time with how much money and energy to commit to the building, built in the 1920s and occupied since 1978 as home of Kentuck's gallery, gift shop and offices, as well as some upstairs artists' workspace. Kentuck also owns and operates adjacent structures, including the Georgine Clarke Building, where many functions moved while the little brown myotis bats were being humanely removed.

It was known the space needed work, but the bat issue "forced the hand," said Amy Echols, Kentuck's executive director, leading to the project to completely redo the building. "It wound up being good news."

Operations moved up Fifth Street to the Clarke Building, but the loss of the Main Avenue space hurt in numerous ways.

"Lots of people come by (the old building), see the note that we've moved, then walk away," Echols said, noting that gift-shop sales dropped. The center also had to temporarily discontinue its Kentuck for Kids programs, which used to be held in the now- cluttered Clarke Building, drawing 50 or 60 kids in monthly for various activities.

Through its central event, the annual third-weekend-in-October Kentuck Festival of the Arts, Kentuck has brought international renown to Northport, drawing 12,000 yearly to the two-day event, with folk, visionary, contemporary and traditional artists, craftspeople, vendors and patrons from all around.

But it also operates the other 11 months with exhibits, activities including a monthly Art Night, and studio space for local artists. The group was co-founded by Clarke in 1971 as part of Northport heritage celebrations, and has grown over the past 44 years into "a treasured hub for creative activity and community involvement," Echols said.

David Pass, a former fundraiser for MedShare International, a nonprofit delivering medical supplies to underserved populations around the world, is heading up the capital campaign. …

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