Firm ready to work on art gallery

The architecture firm plusFARM is ready to take over the Adams Art Gallery as soon as the property can be transferred. However, they know it will be no small project.

Co-directors William Haskas and Matei Denes told the Dunkirk Economic Development Committee and around 20 residents in attendance about how they would like to return the soul back to the long-vacant building by making it a collaborative structure for art, events and education.

“(It’s) a building that has an incredible body, but somewhere along the line lost its soul a little bit. It’s not able to give back what so many people need in this community — a place to go, a place to be vital, a place where they can meet their friends, a place where they can expand and explore. … Imagine that place once again, right here on Central Avenue, a center for collaborative arts, a center where people of all ages can come together to learn and build and grow,” Haskas said. “It’s not a museum, it’s not an idea about a static space. It’s about a center. It’s exhibitions, it’s activities, it’s changing events that happen there on a weekly, monthly basis.”

The duo presented a detailed itemized budget for all the work that needs to be done with prioritization for each item.

“As we start, we’re going to start small this year with just getting the critical things done, doing some innovative programming and building on that. So through the years as we gain momentum and as grants and additional opportunities for funding present themselves, we can grow the budget, we can start doing more things. … We’ve laid out the budget through five years. … What we’ve laid out here is a framework … to identify all those things that need to be done and our understanding of what those things cost and what we can do to fund those things to move this thing forward, not just as a dream, but as a practical, step-by-step (process),” Denes explained.

He added they would like to move quickly on this project.

“We’ve thought about this a long time: How can this building revitalize itself and then revitalize the city around it? What we do is we take these big projects and we break them down into small pieces. We’ve identified stabilization, renovation and restoration as the three major parts of the building itself that need to be addressed. … An important part of that is to get it activated quickly because we don’t want it to just be sitting there for the next five or ten years while it’s being renovated, while it’s sitting there unused. A very important thing for us is to get those door open,” he said. “So our plan is to get those doors open this year to go in and do those critical steps that are necessary to … get it open and then build from that to be able to create … excitement about it, to start planting that seed of this soul growing back into what it was.”

While they hope to have grants to help with this project, Haskas said they have funds and a contractor ready to go as soon as possible.

“Once the ownership issue is clarified, we’re ready to go. We have $100,000 ready to invest in that building tomorrow, we have a roofer ready to get on top of that roof and begin repairing that roof tomorrow,” Haskas said.

Council members in attendance said they were impressed with the plans put forward and hope it comes to fruition. They also asked what the city could do to help.

City Attorney Richard Morrisroe clarified that the city is not directly involved in the sale because the gallery is owned by a nonprofit, Access to the Arts.

“In the last two months we’ve tried to take in everything we’ve heard and there’s sort of this uncertainty about who’s taking the Adams Art Gallery and what’s going to happen to it. We really appreciate the invitation to come here and present it and open up that dialogue and start working with the city, with the community to get this thing off the ground. … If today we can just get that support, if the community knows the city is behind us … I think that’s not only going to allow us to mobilize, but everybody in the community to start understanding that this is a real project that’s really going to happen,” Denes added.

Council members said they would consider giving a more formal show of support by resolution if asked to do so in the future.

Haskas said the presentation will be available soon on the plusfarm.org website.

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