Lebanon arts group wants building otherwise destined for demolition

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The Arts Council of Lebanon wants to use a building otherwise destined for demolition as the center of efforts to boost the local scene.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

City council supports idea, but wants group to pay for renovation.

A local group sees the remnants of a 19th century historical site as the foundation for their efforts to promote the arts scene in Warren County.

The Arts Council of Lebanon wants to move into the house at 1113 Deerfield Road, otherwise destined for demolition as part of relocation of the city's trail system.

Lebanon City Council has expressed support for the idea, provided the group can raise the funds needed to renovate and improve the site to city specifications.

“Find the funding. Do what you need to do,” Mayor Amy Brewer said during a Sept. 6 work session.

The existing house, built about 100 years ago, sits atop a foundation dating back to the 1800s, when it served as a stop on a toll road for wagons and others traveling through the area.

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.