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Restoration begins: Artisan Livery Warehouse remodel underway

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    Artisan Village Board of Directors President Kevin Tomson-Hooper (center) looks over the work being done on the floor during the remodel of the Artisan Village Livery Warehouse on Marion Street. LEE COLEMAN/Staff
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Prep work is everything in brick work as Luis Juarez spreads fine gravel base before continuing the process of dropping the bricks into the floor. Juarez is with J&R Masonry of Snellville. LEE COLEMAN/Staff

It has been nearly four years since the Eatonton Artisan Village purchased two historic warehouses on Marion Street to help revitalize art in the community. Since then, the group has been fundraising, and the remodeling of the Livery Warehouse is now a reality as work has begun to convert the old livery into a permanent home for artists.

“Most artists work out of their homes,” said Artisan Board of Directors President Kevin Tomson-Hooper. “They use their basements or their bedrooms or just about any other place they can to do their work. We saw the creation of working art studios as the stimulus for economic and community development.”

The Artisans Village, a 501(c) (3) non-profit corporation, was established as an economic development art tourism venture to assist with downtown revitalization. The vision was to create an active artisan community where artisans in various disciplines can work, create, network and demonstrate their artistic skills, as well as sell their art.

The Artisans Village purchased two adjacent buildings totaling 20,100 sq. ft. The historic warehouses are ideally located for tourism and collaborative partnerships – one block from the town square, next to Eatonton’s outdoor event stage, green space and public parking, as well as within one block of The Artisans Village Art Gallery, the Georgia Writer’s Museum, Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Program and local businesses.

Following extensive fundraising, the renovation project has begun.

“We decided to move forward and get the livery warehouse renovated and up and running by the fall of this year,” Tomson-Hooper said. “We want to show progress is being made after we bought the buildings because some people weren’t sure we were going to be able to do anything.”

The livery will accommodate artisans working in high temperature pursuits, such as metal works, glass blowing and woodworking. The plan for the larger warehouse is to renovate it to provide affordable studios for art disciplines such as painting, drawing, sculpting and basket weaving.

According to Tomson-Hooper, a recent Urban Institute report commissioned by Knight Foundation revealed the value of art in communities nationwide, citing “Arts and culture are key to cities’ vibrancy and quality of life.”

Recognizing this, The Artisans Village goal is to promote access to various art disciplines to everyone in the region. Establishing community arts assets and creating an interesting “destination” through live demonstrations of artisan crafts that aren’t commonly seen will play an integral role in providing new tourism opportunities.

Simultaneously, The Artisans Village artisans will offer access to art through the retail gallery, classes, demonstrations and events that celebrate middle Georgia’s rich cultural and artistic heritage.

“It has taken us a while to raise the money for the projects but we’ve still got a long way to go,” Tomson-Hooper said. “We wanted to get artists used to coming to Eatonton and customers looking forward to coming to town.

“My experience in the non-profit and program management business has shown that you have to give people a reason to come.”

To find out more information or to make a contribution to the project, please visit: theartisansvillage.org or mail a check to: The Artisans Village, P.O. Box 3429 Eatonton, GA 31024.