Mandala Art Gallery: Community-Student Partnership

Read how one project embraced and motivated a community.
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A gallery is born

But an actual space was still needed. The Mayor, Don Saxton, agreed to rent one of his empty 150-year-old storefronts at a vastly reduced price in exchange for renovations. A restoration carpenter and an artist who had renovated his own nineteenth-century farmhouse both lent their skills to the project. Along with student help, the group spent the summer months pulling up the five layers of flooring – tile, particle board, cement and chicken wire – to get to the beautiful fir floors underneath. They took down the false ceiling and repaired the building’s leaking roof as well.

The sometimes backbreaking work of these core volunteers attracted other help. Graduate students and an art education professor from the university are helping to plan the gallery’s initial shows. The high-school business teacher aided students with a business plan. The town’s bank and gas station, two of the few local businesses, made financial contributions. Equipment and supplies to restore the gallery were donated from businesses in nearby communities.

When the gallery opens in November 2000 with a show highlighting local work and student-made holiday crafts, the students will apply for funding from the local and state arts councils and funding sources that support student-run businesses. Epstein discovered that many such funds do not go toward the renovation of a space, but he thinks the gallery has an excellent chance of receiving financial help to hire a part-time gallery manager, bring in artists for residencies, and attract traveling exhibits to the space. In the long run, the students and their mentors plan to make the gallery a self-sufficient nonprofit business.

The hard work and pure will of the student and community volunteers made the gallery a reality. There are always people who will enthusiastically donate their time and expertise to make a group of young people’s dreams come to fruition.

© 2000 Synapse Learning Design

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