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home : most recent : arts January 22, 2018


1/8/2018 6:42:00 PM
Georgetown looks to arts to preserve its history
The Old Town Hall and former bank on Ind. 64 in Georgetown was built in the early 1900s. Town officials, eager to repurpose the historic building, say the space could be a perfect place for local artists to display their work. Staff photo by Josh Hicks
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The Old Town Hall and former bank on Ind. 64 in Georgetown was built in the early 1900s. Town officials, eager to repurpose the historic building, say the space could be a perfect place for local artists to display their work. Staff photo by Josh Hicks

Elizabeth Depompei, News and Tribune

GEORGETOWN — When artist Julie Schweitzer looks around Georgetown, all she sees is potential.

The possibilities for fostering the arts in a town speckled with historic buildings are endless, the ArtSeed founder said by phone Friday.

“It just depends on the support of the community and artists,” she continued.

Right now, he said, Georgetown- based artists are relegated to using their homes as studio spaces. Artists often leave town to display their work to the public, heading to places like New Albany or Corydon where there are venues to do so.

But Beams and Schweitzer envision even more than a studio space. They’d like to see a place where artists can work in their medium, creating on location and sharing their process with other artists and curious residents.

“I’m hopeful that there is a connection between some of the artists that are well-experienced and for that older generation to come in and connect with some of the younger generation and have that connection between two different age groups,” Beams said. “We think that’s very important connectivity there.”

Schweitzer echoed that sentiment, adding that for artists just starting out, access to needed materials can be difficult. Imagine being a young glassblower with no means to the right equipment.

But Schweitzer acknowledges that developing such resources takes time, adding, “you always have to start small with these things.”

Kathy Haller, Georgetown Town Council member, would love to see a space for artists and their creations. Haller moved to Georgetown 47 years ago, and she still remembers that first impression. She described the town as a “baby doll picture” of perfection.

“The town was absolutely gorgeous and the houses were really stitched up nice,” she said.

But after years of wear and tear, including a tornado, more homes now appear neglected and sidewalks are crumbling. Haller considers it her duty to residents to address infrastructure needs and boost the economy before anything else, but she agrees that investing in an arts community can help those goals along.

“I think art is beautiful, pictures are gorgeous, sculptures are really nice. I just want to take care of the people here in Georgetown and try to make it look decent ...” Haller said.

As the town works to beautify and preserve its historic district along Ind. 64, Haller said she hopes it inspires residents to invest more in the community, too.

Officials also hope that a thriving downtown and arts community would bring dollars from outside the town by way of tourism. Beams said it’s well-documented that the arts help draw visitors in, particularly millennials.

And while travelers might be able to get their art fix in larger nearby cities, Georgetown has a unique history and flavor to offer, officials say.

“It’s a railroad town, so we’re hopeful that we can have some historical artwork as it relates to the railroads and the depots,” Beams said.

Schweitzer is familiar with the intersection of art and history. She recently helped the Floyd County Commissioners with Platform 22, a series of public art installations in nine of the county’s parks that aims to connect people with art, history and heritage by utilizing local and historical artwork. The project is expected to be formally completed by the spring.

Haller likes the idea of having something like that in Georgetown. When she thinks of public art, she pictures the murals seen around New Albany.

“That catches your eye,” she said. “We just need something in Georgetown that catches your eye.” 

While a booming arts community may not be at the top of the wish list for everyone in Georgetown, officials see it as a way to preserve the town’s rich history and landmarks. Take for example the Old Town Hall, a former bank built in the early 1900s that sits across the street from the modern-day town hall.

The building was once slated for demolition, but town officials and Destination Georgetown (aka Georgetown MainStreet) were able to work with Indiana Landmarks to secure grant money to save the structure. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out what to do with it. Enter: the arts.

MainStreet member John Beams said the small building could be the perfect place for local artists to display and sell their work.

Right now, he said, Georgetown-based artists are relegated to using their homes as studio spaces. Artists often leave town to display their work to the public, heading to places like New Albany or Corydon where there are venues to do so.

But Beams and Schweitzer envision even more than a studio space. They'd like to see a place where artists can work in their medium, creating on location and sharing their process with other artists and curious residents.

"I'm hopeful that there is a connection between some of the artists that are well-experienced and for that older generation to come in and connect with some of the younger generation and have that connection between two different age groups," Beams said. "We think that's very important connectivity there."

Schweitzer echoed that sentiment, adding that for artists just starting out, access to needed materials can be difficult. Imagine being a young glassblower with no means to the right equipment.

But Schweitzer acknowledges that developing such resources takes time, adding, "you always have to start small with these things."

Kathy Haller, Georgetown Town Council member, would love to see a space for artists and their creations. Haller moved to Georgetown 47 years ago, and she still remembers that first impression. She described the town as a "baby doll picture" of perfection.

"The town was absolutely gorgeous and the houses were really stitched up nice," she said.

But after years of wear and tear, including a tornado, more homes now appear neglected and sidewalks are crumbling. Haller considers it her duty to residents to address infrastructure needs and boost the economy before anything else, but she agrees that investing in an arts community can help those goals along.

"I think art is beautiful, pictures are gorgeous, sculptures are really nice. I just want to take care of the people here in Georgetown and try to make it look decent ..." Haller said.

As the town works to beautify and preserve its historic district along Ind. 64, Haller said she hopes it inspires residents to invest more in the community, too.

Officials also hope that a thriving downtown and arts community would bring dollars from outside the town by way of tourism. Beams said it's well-documented that the arts help draw visitors in, particularly millennials.

And while travelers might be able to get their art fix in larger nearby cities, Georgetown has a unique history and flavor to offer, officials say.

"It's a railroad town, so we're hopeful that we can have some historical artwork as it relates to the railroads and the depots," Beams said.

Schweitzer is familiar with the intersection of art and history. She recently helped Floyd County Commissioners with Platform 22, a series of public art installations in nine of the county's parks that aims to connect people with art, history and heritage by utilizing local and historical artwork. The project is expected to be formally completed by the spring.

Haller likes the idea of having something like that in Georgetown. When she thinks of public art, she pictures the murals seen around New Albany.

“That catches your eye," she said. "We just need something in Georgetown that catches your eye."

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