• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Exploring a vision for ‘art space’ in downtown

VERSAILLES ART SPACE Steering Committee members, from left, are Mary Nehring, Julie Buchanan, Brad Fister and Laura Dake (chair), standing in the Court Street building formerly occupied by the offices of Versailles United Methodist Church. Not pictured, but also on the committee exploring a vision for an art space in downtown Versailles, is Karen Isberg. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

People in the community are being invited to share their “art space” ideas for the vacant building at 110 North Court Street in downtown Versailles. The Versailles Art Space Holiday Open House on Saturday, Dec. 2, from noon to 7 p.m., will happen in conjunction with Christmas Parade day activities in downtown Versailles.

Local professional artists and art students will show and sell their artwork and fine crafts in this space (formerly occupied by the offices of Versailles United Methodist Church) during the open house.

Visitors, who may purchase artwork (many priced at $50 or less), can tour the building and take a survey so they can help determine the vision for a thriving art space in a downtown Versailles.

Before formerly naming this new art space, members of an Art Space Steering Committee wanted to get input from others in the community on what they want to fill this now-vacant building, said committee Chair Laura Dake. Brad Fister, who’s pursuing his master’s degree in historic preservation at the University of Kentucky, said his thesis focuses on revitalizing the courthouse square in downtown Versailles. So he viewed being on the Art Space Steering Committee as an opportunity to help make a now-vacant building “useful again in a new way.”

Other committee members share that vision for a building Fister once described as having “a unique, funky, insane floor plan” created during its years as a boarding house before becoming office space for Versailles United Methodist Church, which has relocated to 230 Paynes Mill Road.

Having been an active voice for the sustainability of downtown Versailles and preserving historic buildings, Karen Isberg views this effort to support a thriving arts community in downtown Versailles as worthwhile. “I’m interested in history and the arts – and I think that that’s important culture to bring into a community,” she said.

Mary Nehring said she hopes to become a tenant in one of the art studios. And because of her teaching background, she also understands the value of offering art classes to children.

“So this would actually be something that the community could use,” said Nehring. She said more than a dozen local artists had already committed to participating in Friday’s open house.

“If there’s a thriving arts community then people will want to be there,” said Julie Buchanan, who has been involved in the arts in various incarnations for about 40 years. She describes opening a place where artists can create, teach and sell art as a longtime coming.

In her capacity as chair of the Downtown Planning Advisory Committee (she also serves on Versailles city council), Dake said she met with the owners of properties formerly occupied by Versailles United Methodist Church. She remembers telling Alex and Emily Riddle, “wouldn’t that be a great place for art,” pointing to the building at 110 North Court Street.

“I just thought it would be a really cool way to bring people to downtown Versailles,” explained Dake, “which is part of what we’re trying to do with the downtown committee is to revitalize downtown and make it a destination.”

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