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Victoria Art League revamps building, community outreach (video)

Feb. 20, 2013 at 12:02 a.m.
Updated Feb. 19, 2013 at 8:20 p.m.

Ronnie Chambers gives advice to Kristin Grahmann during the Painting the Town workshop at the Victoria Art League. Chambers provides an example of work that he painted that the guests replicate.

On any given night, South Bridge Street in front of Victoria Art League is crowded with cars, a sight many in downtown Victoria may not be used to.

Inside, the building is alive with community members - young and old - painting and honing their artistic abilities - this is what the Painting the Town event is all about, said coordinator Eunice Collins.

But the growing class is more than just about learning to paint. It's about showcasing what the art league is all about.

"No one actually knows the art league exists out here," she said. "It's such a cool place, and we have so much to offer."

Collins, who helped organize the Painting the Town classes, was inspired by a segment she saw on CNN called "Painting with a Twist," which revolves around the same idea of beginner painters listening to music, drinking some wine and being successful in art.

Plus, 10 percent of the money the class makes goes to the league, Collins said.

Painting the Town has reached the likes of Brandi Beckner, mother of Layla Beckner, 8. Beckner's daughter has always had an interest in art and is the reason the two go almost weekly.

"She's patient," Beckner said of her daughter, as she painted the dolphins based on a model drawing by the art teacher. "It's just something different other than watching TV."

Being part of the community has long been the art league's mission, said President Bill Bauer.

"Somebody has to be coming here if they're going to show up," Bauer said, with a laugh. "Hardly anyone just stumbles upon it."

Though promoting the art league is its biggest crux since the building was purchased in late 1990s, restoring the facility is also very important.

Through grant money and donations to the league, they have been able to slowly restore the building. The renovations have been ongoing for more than a year.

The league first restored its porch and eventually moved onto fixing the roof and stairs of the apartments it rents out.

Most recently though, they completed its art workroom by restoring the windows and putting in new flooring, Bauer said.

Several years ago, the league closed out a patio area to make more room for pottery.

Now, the league is seeking bids to restore the main gallery. The gallery needs new roofing and flooring, he said.

Restoring instead of renovating is important to Bauer, whose friend was Harold Nichols, the longtime Victoria artist and former building owner who died in January.

Nichols' presence is evident and needs to be preserved, Bauer said.

"You can see his touch throughout the building," he said. "It has Harold written all over it."

Finishing the restoration will allow the league to focus on promotion and would make Nichols proud, Bauer said.

"I would like to see it all restored so that we don't have to always be restoring something," he said. "We're getting close."

But it's classes like Painting the Town, Bauer said, that have people learning more about what the Victoria arts community has to offer.

"Painting the Town has really livened up (the art league)," he said. "It's making them excited about this place."



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