Sunday, December 08, 2013
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Robin Puccetti (left), Margaret Donsbach and Robert Tomlinson form the core of arts center concept that will serve Monmouth and Independence with classes and exhibitions.
October 23, 2013
INDEPENDENCE -- What began as an off-the-cuff remark about the old Independence library has turned into a full-fledged community effort to bring an arts center to Independence, or Monmouth, or both.
When the Monmouth-Independence Chamber of Commerce moved out of the old library at the beginning of September, Independence city officials were left mulling what to do with the space.
Unbeknownst to David Clyne, Independence city manager, a relatively new resident to Independence already had a vision.
"I was in the old library after the chamber moved out having a meeting with Nancy Lodge (Independence city councilor)," Robert Tomlinson said. "Nancy said the city was brainstorming on a productive and meaningful way to use the space for the community. In an offhanded manner, I said, 'Well, you should put in an arts center.'"
Just like that, the idea took off.
Tomlinson is a visual artist formerly based in Portland but moved to Independence six months ago with his partner Margaret Donsbach because of the city's slower pace and charm.
What Tomlinson had brewing in his head caught on immediately with Lodge and Clyne.
"Nancy said, 'Oh, that's a great idea!'" Tomlinson said. "She took it back to David and other city officials. They all liked the idea."
Since that chance meeting with Lodge, a coalition has built up around the arts center premise, which would focus on community involvement, especially at the grade-school level.
The city officially opened the space formerly occupied by the chamber at the old library to the collective to begin classes and programs in January.
Robin Puccetti, Independence community services director, was one of the first to jump on board.
"We're still having meetings and exploring possibilities, but there seems to be a lot of interest, so that's really exciting," Puccetti said.
For now, the crux of the matter is establishing the budding idea as a nonprofit entity and finding a suitable site to house an exhibition venue.
Tomlinson and his team are looking at the library as the core of the center with one or two other spots in Monmouth or Independence acting as an exhibition galleries or classrooms.
"Sites are still being looked at," Puccetti said. "The library may be the nucleus of things and then expand out from there, but that's all still yet to be determined."
An exhibition space may not be known yet, but Tomlinson, with his extensive background in nonprofits, is hoping to have a site selected and open by spring.
A fundraising yard sale for the project is set for Nov. 9 at the old library to fully kick start the concept.
The working title for the center is the Ash Creek Arts Center, because of it's regional context and the fact that Ash Creek runs through both Monmouth and Independence.
"Once we file for nonprofit status, which is not a complicated process, we can work under the umbrella of an existing nonprofit," Tomlinson said. "We're very concerned about making sure we don't have a generation that's culturally illiterate."
For more information on the arts center, how to donate or volunteer, contact Robin Puccetti at the Independence Public Library at 503-838-1811.