Grant matched by local effort breathing new life in art center By Patrick Morrison
Yankton Media, Inc. The Washington Street Arts Center will get a facelift this summer thanks in part to a $10,000 Deadwood Fund Matching Grant. Norma Wilson, president of the Vermillion Area Arts Council, said she approached the South Dakota State Historical Society about finding a grant to help with repairs to the building. "I found out that the SDSHS had funds available for preservation work and they sent down a preservation officer to take a look at the WSAC," Wilson said. "He advised on how to properly get the ball rolling on a successful grant application." Wilson then approached members of the community for support, several of whom wrote letters of recommendation to help secure the grant. After taking bids for the repairs, Wilson said the VAAC selected Vermillion contractor Rick Johns, who has worked on the WSAC before, to do the repair work. The VAAC then submitted the grant proposal to the SDSHS and were awarded the $10,000 matching-funds grant. Chris Nelson, a historic preservation officer with SDSHS, said $100,000 worth of matching fund grants are awarded in two cycles every year, with roughly $50,000 of grants per cycle. All of that $100,000 is derived from gambling revenues in Deadwood, which are in turn dispersed across the state. Nelson said anyone or any organization is eligible for a grant, but the building benefiting from the funds must be on the National Register of Historic Places. The largest grant available is for $25,000, but Nelson said exterior work on buildings is typically funded at a higher rate than interior work. Since the VAAC is a non-profit organization, half of their matching fund can be made up of soft contributions, Nelson said. "It's pretty common for non-profits to have some of their matching contribution be in donated labor and services," he said. "If you have a local guy who is willing to donate his scaffolding and his time, that makes it a lot easier to reach the matching amount." Wilson said the VAAC is asking individuals and organizations within the community to help reach the $5,000 worth of donated labor and $5,000 in hard costs. "So far, we received a $1,200 grant from the Vermillion Area Community Foundation and large contributions from individuals, including from our board members," Wilson said. "We are also going to be relying on people volunteering a lot of their time. It will be a big commitment." Wilson said the work on the building is now underway, with the contractor conducting minor repairs on the roof and installing gutters. Other repairs will include repairing window frames, replastering areas inside the building, installing new louvers in the bell tower and installing air conditioning in the basement. Thus far, Wilson said she has only heard positive feedback from members of the community about the renovation project. "I think the community is quite enthusiastic about this," she said. "For those who utilize this building for programs like the Summer Arts Camp, this renovation will allow them to be in an even more welcoming atmosphere." In addition to the Summer Arts Camp, the WSAC hosts a variety of concerts, art exhibits, and fundraisers like "Chili Blues" and "Spring into the Arts," Wilson said. "The WSAC is a repository of our history because it educates people about the art we have and the artists we have in our community," she said. "It really provides a beautiful space to practice and witness the arts. There is no other space like it in Vermillion, and we are glad we were able to do our part to preserve it." Originally built in 1906 as St. Agnes Catholic Church, the WSAC was bought in 1990 by the VAAC. The building was one of 10 small Gothic churches built in South Dakota by the Wisconsin-based architect Anton Dohmen, Wilson said. Former VAAC President Phyllis Packard said the VAAC moved around from office to office before purchasing their building. "It was a good 10 years of bouncing around, so we felt we needed a home," Packard said. "We hemmed and we hawed and we hawed and we hemmed, but we all agreed that we needed to purchase the building." Packard, who also serves as the chair for the Clay County Historical Preservation Commission, said the Preservation Commission and the VAAC were interested in preserving the building. "We definitely knew that it needed to be saved, and it was a beautiful building to provide for both the arts council and the community," Packard said.
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