Update: Arts Center, Farmers Market, Community Garden

I have been sitting on my behind pretty much all day, focusing on writing e-mails and making phone calls concerning the proposed sale of the Washington Street Arts Center, and what this would mean for both the Vermillion Area Farmers Market and the Vermillion Community Garden Project. I am deeply involved in both projects (as president of the market board and coordinator of the garden project), and both projects would be deeply affected by the sale of the current Arts Center building and adjoining lot.

A few things I’ve learned today about the state of the Arts Center building have made me realize that the current building may be in worse shape than I thought. Also, an e-mail from a woman who heads the downtown revitalization project made me cautiously optimistic that moving the Farmers Market downtown could be (finally) a fruitful possibility.

The garden project is my real concern as of this moment simply because the Farmers Market may have other possibilities, but the community garden would be land-less if this sale went through. I feel a real responsibility for the garden’s future because I had envisioned the thing for so long, and with a large cadre of motivated individuals, we broke ground last year and got some great gardens going–both individual ones and communal ones.

Particularly wonderful were the efforts of the Vermillion Garden Club on our corner garden and the apple tree planting with the second grade school kids for Arbor Day (with a speech by Mayor Dan), and the constructing of an integrated sign/bench by craftsmen Harry Freeman and Rick Johns, with painting by local artist Ariadne Albright. But no less fantastic were the efforts of volunteers to level the site; collect raised bed building materials; build the plots; do manure, compost, and soil runs; set up and maintain the rainwater collection tank; mulch the aisles between the beds; and simply plant and maintain their own lovely gardens.

I want to know that somehow, even if this sale goes through, the Vermillion Area Arts Council will do right by all those who worked so hard and gave so much to make this project a reality. I do not know what form this “doing right” would take, but I do know that if we are going to have to move (and perhaps for some developer to build apartments? The thought makes me queasy…), there ought to be some help from those who displaced us.

I am not sure that I will fight this sale head-on. From what I’ve learned today, it’s possible that this move really does make sense–really is in the best interests of the Arts Council and their mission to promote arts in the community. But that mission cannot, in a community like this, be so narrow as to dis-include support for the “art” of gardening. In such a small town as Vermillion, an organization’s mission has to be broad-based enough to garner support from all types of people, and broad-minded enough to see art as more than a painting on a wall.

(Credit to my wonderful and astute partner Harry Scholten for his discerning the need for organizations in small towns to have an expansive vision/mission in order to build the broad base of support they need to survive.)


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