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Renewed grant underway for arts center

The City of Troy is moving ahead with a grant application to fund additional renovations at the city's old post office.

It's not a new project, only a renewed grant application.

"The reason for the slowdown was that we missed last year's grant schedule, but Ann Paine told us it was one of the better projects submitted for funding," Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said.

Paine was, at the time,

the director of the Alabama Dept. of Economic and Community Development, the state agency that holds the key to awarding such Community Development Block Grant funds.

Now there's a new administration in office and a new director, but Lunsford is confident the project will get funding.

"I feel very encouraged we'll get at least a fair look and hopefully a favorable commitment this time," he said.

Such optimism is equally shared by others in the community.

The building, once rapidly deteriorating, is to become the home of the Troy-Pike County Cultural Arts Center, a home for the area's burgeoning arts community.

Local CPA Mack Gibson chairs the Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Foundation's board of directors.

"For too many years in the past, historical structures in Troy were not being preserved and recycled for other uses," he said. "There's a move on by our city leaders to change this and begin using our historical structures as an enhancement to city."

Gordon points to the success of the city's Colley Senior Complex and City Hall as example.

"It's a melting pot of art at the Colley Senior Complex, and they were able to utilize the Bashinsky Building to house the center after the Alabama Baptist Children's Home closed their Troy location."

"I was out there one day and said 'we've done it for our seniors, now let's do if for our children'," Gibson said.

That was the birth of the post office project.

"A cultural center is icing on the cake when it comes to industrial recruitment. We have good schools, a great university and we're blessed with talent - we've got great artists and good arts groups like the Troy Arts Council," he said.

"The churches contribute to our art here, too. They have been a strong venue for our artists."

The need for an art venue in Troy couples nicely with Gibson's historic preservation ideas. He said there was just no where to have art exhibits for any great length of time, and Don Crapps, chairman of the Troy Arts Council agrees.

"The Arts Council has about 75 paintings. The majority are at WTBF, a few at Pike County Board of Education, and some are in storage," Crapps said.

"We're seriously limited for art shows."

Crapps said the Arts Council

and the Troy Arts Guild started a drive several years ago to obtain the vacated post office, which was owned by the board of education.

"We were so bold as to go ask them to give it to us. They wouldn't do that so the Chamber negotiated purchasing it for us," he said.

The city provided the seed money to purchase the building and through donations the arts foundation and the city together were able to reroof it and complete and exterior renovation to save further deterioration.

That's where the CDBG grant comes in.

Gibson said the plans in the original grant application had been modified somewhat, but the basic plan remains the same.

"We want to have exhibition areas on the main floor of the building," he said.

Added to that would be a large studio in the basement where art classes could take place, and offices on the third floor.

"Imagine what it would be like to those parents to come in and see their children's artwork hanging in the arts center," Gibson said.

"A cultural arts center would provide and support the active arts community in helping others to appreciate the finer things in life, especially the children. The center would bring together all segments," he said.