ELKHART — The city’s artistic presence in the downtown business district will expand next month with a little help from Elkhart leaders and taxpayers.
A new art gallery will soon open at 503 S. Main Street with five artists showing off their wares.
The empty store front, which was most recently known as Lucy’s Rhythm Room, is being cleaned up and prepared for opening with hopes that it will be ready for the May 15 ArtWalk.
The space was secured through a lease agreement from building owner Denny Miller by Downtown Elkhart Inc., which will serve as the landlord.
The city’s redevelopment commission agreed to provide $6,000 rent money for the first six months in hopes of helping the group establish itself. The money comes from the downtown tax increment finance fund, which can be used for a broad range of redevelopment purposes.
The hope is that after six months, the gallery will become self-sustaining.
The gallery is within a stone’s throw of the Midwest Museum of American Art, 429 S. Main St.
It joins three others in the downtown. Thompson Gallery-Custom Framing, 111 E. Lexington Ave., has operated continuously in the downtown for more than 35 years. Faces of Art, 522 S. Main St., offers classes in ceramics, jewelry-making and painting. Elk River Upcycle and n. wirt Design and Gallery, 205 S. Main St., showcases local art and features architectural salvage items. The store also offers interior design services.
Helping expand the offerings of art in the downtown is a key component behind the work of SoMa, a community group that is working to help revive the South Main Street area. The group is expected to unveil details of its long-term plans this month and will highlight those details at ArtWalk.
ArtWalk is entering its third season and supporters believe the effort to establish the arts and entertainment district continues to gain momentum.
The new gallery — tentatively being called ArtWalk Studios — will be a headquarters for ArtWalk and serve as another outlet for artists.
Participating artists include Brian Boothe, Emily St. Germain, Jimm Showman, Doni Funkhouser and Joshua Mills. Together, they are committing to establishing set hours to be open every week. A schedule of hours has not yet been established.
Exposure and awareness are crucial for the art community, St. Germain said.
“It’s one of the few things in this world that are easily forgotten because of the lack of exposure,” St. Germain said. “If you don’t have the opportunity for the public to see it, then it will not become important to them. We need to show that it is important to us so that it gives them an opportunity to be important to them.”
Mike Huber, president of DEI, made the presentation to the redevelopment commission early this month and called the cooperative effort a “unique partnership.”
In some ways, it’s similar to communities that provide a setting — sometimes called an incubator — for new businesses to establish themselves.
“We’re creating a launch pad ... where local artists will bring their time, their energy and their talents. We’re just giving them the space to do it,” Huber said.
Huber said the gallery will be open 15 to 20 hours per week.
“I think the more we support artists in the community, the better we’ll all be,” Huber said.