A Place for Art and Maybe a Space for a Makerspace

The Creative Arts Community of Greenville (CAC-Gvl) sponsored a luncheon in the former Johnson Street Church of Christ Thursday. The artistic community is active in theater, musical productions, artistic endeavors and dance.

Chrissy Dickens, spokesperson for the group, stood in front of more than 25 influential community members including City of Greenville Mayor, David Dreiling. Dickens offered a proposal to guests at the luncheon Thursday that would have the Creative Arts Community occupy the former Johnson Street Church of Christ building. The 30,000 square foot building was constructed in 1924 with a new auditorium built in the early 1960s and education spaces built in 1977.  The congregation has built a new building on Joe Ramsey and Jack Finney Boulevards and are now the Creekside Church of Christ.

Dickens reasoned that “the idea is to provide a resource for students and adults to obtain education or training in the arts that they may not be able to obtain elsewhere in the county.” Preliminary plans could include turning the now main sanctuary into a GMA style theater/auditorium. She went on to say “we do not want to replace the Greenville Municipal Auditorium (GMA) but we do want to supplement it”.

Robert Smith, director of Greenville Family Theater – Producing Singing in the Rain to run in July at the GMA – ran into a problem when their original rehearsal space was no longer available and practicing at the GMA was not an option. Pastor Randy Daw opened the doors to the group and “[they] haven’t missed a beat… we did not miss one rehearsal”, said Smith. A facility like this would offer a place to not only practice singing and dancing, but allow productions to make props, costumes, sets, and afford a staging area for it all.

Though CAC-Gvl is interested in the facility they recognize that the entirety of it is much larger than their organization could expect to utilize. They proposed that other non-profits, artists, teachers, businesses, and clubs could rent out offices, meeting space, classrooms, and even the kitchen. “My daughter can sing, but can’t cook…”, “…and I’m not the one to teach her.” Someone could come in and teach a cooking class, piano, and voice lessons. Things they wouldn’t be able to do anywhere else, including their own home or a traditional classroom setting.

Gabriel Medina spoke about the possibility of adding a Makerspace. A makerspace is a place where people go to create, invent and learn. Usually a Makerspace would charge a monthly fee to allow access to a library of tools (used only at the facility). For instance, instead of going and buying a $300 compound miter saw to chop wood for one project, pay $50/month for access to 6 months of using not only the compound miter saw, but use the nail gun too. And while you’re at it spend a few minutes on a laser cutter and 3D printer to make gifts for a loved one. Learn how to use a wood lathe or help a friend fix a broken… anything. With the local manufacturing talent of L3 and Innovation First a Makerspace would certainly get its fair use. Spend a few minutes online and you can see that there are Makerspaces all over the world doing quite amazing things and empowering the culture of DIY. The nearest Makerspaces are in Rockwall. Dallas and Tyler.

One after another attendees stood and spoke of the need for trained individuals such as HVAC, carpenters, and welders. They could all be trained hands on by professionals throughout the community who could hire directly from the program.

The building is centrally located at Johnson and Oneal Streets in Greenville. Byron Taylor, President and CEO at The Greenville Chamber of Commerce stated “This is the gateway to downtown what we do here really matters.”

The church has offered the Creative Arts Community a price of $875,000. According to senior pastor Randy Daw, the elders of the church would like to see the building used as some sort of community center and not left unused to be vandalized and turned into a blight for the area. Realtor Randy Tarpley values the property at around 3.5 million and says “[this] is a great price for a building of this size in a market such as Greenville and Commerce.”  Several county realtors have passed on inquiries to Tarpley. Tarpley added that finding a good fit for a church building is difficult.

Chrissy Dickens concluded “funding will be an issue and a huge hurdle”.  Several people came forward and offered ideas and support for the CAC-Gvl proposal after the luncheon.


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