Complicating the group’s plans is the fact that the city has been awarded a state grant to demolish the building as part of rerouting the local bike-hike trail.
Leading the effort is a former assistant curator the Arts Institute of Chicago and the New Orleans Museum of Art.
“We are standing in the spot of potentially, quite possibly, the first ever Lebanon community arts center,” Rochelle Collins, president of the Arts Council of Lebanon said, while visiting the site last week. “This would be a huge benefit to the town.”
Collins heads the group formed after reorganization of the Warren County Arts Council, established to create a countywide arts presence.
The reorganized group’s mission is to promote Lebanon-area arts, leveraging the collective energy created by a range of arts organizations formed in Lebanon and across the county.
“This center would also provide a measurable way to support the community through cultural events, classes, tourism and overall support and promotion of the arts in Lebanon,” according to a report submitted by the arts council to the city.
The new group has already organized concerts and plans a variety of programming for adults and children.
City staff has recommended the site be brought up to standards set in the Americans with Disabilities Act and include a paved 10-car parking lot.
Collins indicated the group hopes to reduce the project cost.
“The city has been wonderful to work with, but we are exploring all possibilities,” Collins said. “We are in the process of reaching out to donors, grant writing and fund-raising.”
On Sept. 19, the council is scheduled to discuss a resolution that would outline the city’s commitment to lease the property to the arts group.
“If the resolution is approved, staff will work with the Ohio Public Works Commission, who administers the grant used to purchase the property, to modify the project scope by removing the demolition component,” Assistant City Manager Scott Brunka said in an email.
Councilman Jeff Aylor expressed support, provided the project didn’t slow up the trail relocation.
“All of us want to see this happen,” Aylor said.