Can the community find another use for Houghton Elementary School, the old neighborhood school at the corner of Russell and Bennett Street?
A group of Saline area residents are studying the idea of converting school, opened in 1966 and shuttered in 2010, in to a community cultural arts center. It's an idea circulating around Saline and you'll probably be hearing a lot more about it in coming months. According to Karen Ragland, co-owner of Design Hub Inc., members of Saline Main Street have talked about the idea with local music and arts groups and toured the building with Saline Area Schools facilities director Doug Bacon.
The building was closed in 2010, saving the district about $600,000 annually. Ragland said the building needs considerable work. Still, they left the tour excited about the possibilities..
The building features an auditorium which can be used for performing arts. It also has room for showcasing, teaching and creating various forms of art including paintings, textiles, glass blowing, ceramics and sculptures.
While many have suggested a cultural arts center belongs downtown, finding affordable space could prove difficult. At the same time,Houghton School's proximity to Mill Pond Park may also have programming advantages.
The school district, which found a buyer for Union School and recently used a land sale to help balance its budget, has expressed interest in selling Houghton Elementary. The district has also begun exploring the cost effectiveness of maintaining Liberty School.
Ragland said as the idea is pitched around town, proponents will discuss ways to fund the purchase, renovation and operation of such a facility.
Here is the letter describing the idea:
Imagine if the Saline community had its own Arts and Cultural Center.
What if we had a place to not only see and experience the visual, performing, and culinary arts, but also to learn about the arts – and maybe even partake in creating them ourselves?
What might our Arts and Cultural Center entail?
Saline’s Arts and Cultural Center could be a place for our many excellent musical groups to practice, perform, and store their instruments. There might even be a recording studio.
And this wouldn’t just be for our established musical ensembles (Saline Fiddlers, Fiddlers Restrung, Saline Big Band, Saline New Horizons Band, and others). It could be for our many “garage” bands too. Who knows? The next Led Zeppelin or Little Big Town may come from among Saline’s young musicians.
In Saline’s Arts and Cultural Center, our theatrical and dance groups could rehearse and perform. In galleries, our community’s visual artists could display their works.
In classrooms, anyone interested could learn to design, draw, sculpt, paint, and make pottery. In gourmet kitchens, our aspiring Thomas Kellers and Rachael Rays could work on tempting our taste buds. We could all find ways to express our creative visions.
We could even think “outside the box.” Around our Arts and Cultural Center could serve as the practice grounds and showcase for our community’s landscape artists.
Opportunity may exist to house Saline’s Arts and Cultural Center in the old Houghton School building. We’re looking for community members to help explore the possibilities and set the direction for a community resource that could enrich all of our lives.
What do you envision for Saline’s Arts and Cultural Center?