GOSHEN — A group of artisans is turning a long-vacant building into a gallery that will hopefully expand upon Goshen’s already diverse and creativity-filled downtown scene.
The seven are working to transform the old Jaxon Cleaners building on Fifth Street into a creative space where their various talents can be displayed.
“The Local” will be a spot for Goshen artists and light manufacturers to hone their crafts while having the advantage of the visibility afforded by the downtown area.
Building owner Eric Kanagy, the owner of Red Post, which occupies the southwest end of the building, had wanted to fill the vacant building for some time and helped to bring together a group he believed could transform and utilize the space.
“(Kanagy) was looking for a space for designers and crafters to come together and show off wares and goods,” said Travis Yutzy, one of the individuals in the group. He added that the The Local would be a great place for members to meet with potential clients.
The seven group members include furniture maker and interior space designer Yutzy, ceramic artist Meghan Borland, Devin Biek of Janus Motorcycles, Jesse Stoltzfus of Blue Dog Light Craft, Evan Bontrager of Conrad Grebel Furniture and Phil and Katlyn Mast of Hedge House Furniture.
“We have a lot of very innovative talent that is here in Goshen,” said Kalaine Fields, who is helping to promote The Local and plan its launch.
Fields said the model for The Local will be much like the Goshen Chamber of Commerce’s LaunchPad, welcoming beginning artists and light manufacturers and providing them a space until they grow out of it.
“It’s going to be dynamic as well because people are going to grow and move on to bigger things but it’s a place where, you know the LaunchPad and the innovation center, it’s a natural extension of that,” she said. “People will move on and then somebody else will come in and we’ll just keep recycling the people and the talent.”
The Local shares the Fifth Street building with PolyKarmic Recycling 2.0., but with PolyKarmic forced to move their operations, the individuals from The Local will soon look to expand into that section of the building.
Stoltzfus plans to use much of the extra space to build canoes and industrial lighting fixtures and teach boat building.
Borland held the gallery’s first exhibition Friday, April 5, during First Fridays to introduce the space to residents. She said the initial reception was a good way to attract residents curious about what’s going on in the building.
“It was a good chance to let people know what’s going on,” she said. “I talked to a lot of people that don’t know where Jaxon Cleaners is or what it is it’s been vacant so long.”
There is much work to be done on the building yet, however, and the group said there will be no further exhibitions until The Local’s grand opening May 3 during the May First Fridays.
The group believes Goshen to be an area that will be receptive to their efforts of innovation on a smaller scale.
“People are drawn to this area because we support innovation,” Fields said. “We make it easy for people to build and create, easier than other areas.”
“I think Goshen has a reputation for the Amish craftsmanship and larger manufacturing,” Yutzy added. “I think that we’re kind of the younger generation that’s interested in blending those two things ... into custom, smaller manufacturing.”