A significant face-lift is transforming a former martial-arts studio into a place to showcase multidimensional visual arts in downtown Chambersburg.
Photo Credit: Anne Finucane
CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A significant face-lift is transforming a former martial-arts studio into a place to showcase multidimensional visual arts in downtown Chambersburg.
In mid-December, the Chambersburg Council for the Arts began the process of moving from its space at 81 N. Main St. in Chambersburg to 103 N. Main St., which has nearly double the square footage. Volunteers, staff, board members and the Wilson College men’s basketball team helped relocate gallery items, tables, chairs and administrative supplies to the nonprofit’s new home.
In anticipation of the move, the arts council invested in some new programming and equipment, including adding a ceramics component - complete with potter’s wheels and kilns - and designed an area where glass can be transformed with flames. Michael Fisher, executive director of Chambersburg Council for the Arts, worked with Josh Blankenship, founder and owner of Homebuyers PA, to renovate the space, which encompasses 1,800 square feet, plus a finished porch, totaling about 2,000 square feet.
Downtown Chambersburg Inc. President Sam Thrush said the building was occupied for about three decades by a tae kwon do school.
“He was able to transform that space into a remarkable space,” Thrush said of Blankenship.
The renovation involved “everything,” Blankenship said, including removing existing flooring to reveal the hardwood below, taking out some plaster to expose brick and replacing doors. New plumbing and electricity also will be installed in the building he purchased in the summer of 2018.
“All the guts are new,” Blankenship said.
He worked with the arts council to ensure there would be proper lighting for exhibits and showcases, and sufficient exhaust release for the pottery area, among other accommodations.
“There’s a lot of opportunities with this new space,” said Fisher, who also is a government logistician and has been an officer in the U.S. Army for six years.
Fisher said programs are already underway at the new location. By May, he hopes the sizable project will be nearly done, just in time for summer classes and workshops.
Black & Blush Boutique now occupies the space vacated by the council for the arts. Owners/sisters Brittani Black and Cortney Hanks opened during IceFest.
Fisher is in his sixth year as executive director, and the move to 103 N. Main is his second with the organization. When he took over, the arts council was at 159 S. Main St., near the Capitol Theatre Center, and he wanted to either renovate that space or relocate.
“You have to keep things fresh, keep things relevant,” Fisher said. “I could see there was potential for more.”
When the arts council was near the theater, its collections consisted of paintings and drawings, but no three-dimensional work, which changed when it moved to its more spacious home at 81 N. Main St. That site also allowed the arts council to establish an identity separate from the theater and utilize the parking lot of a nearby law firm for events such as Arts in the Alley.
As part of the strategic plan for the next three years, the Chambersburg Council for the Arts set fundraising goals and intends to host more events. Fisher also would like to bring together other area arts organizations that focus on theater and music, which once were under the arts council umbrella. He hopes doing so will enhance the arts and drive economic growth, all of which requires community support.
For more information about the Chambersburg Council for the Arts, call 717-264-6883 or go to www.councilforthearts.net.