Saturday, November 29, 2003

Oxford arts community has place to call its own



By Aaron Johnson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

OXFORD - The arts community here has a place to call home, and over the past few months, it has even started to look more like one.

After five years of vacancy, the old Oxford College building, in uptown Oxford, will become the Oxford Community Arts Center (OCAC). Officials hope that once the building is repaired and renovated, the center will give the city's community and school groups a chance to break away from Miami University, whose facilities they've used for plays, concerts and art shows.

"One of the things Oxford needs to continue to do is develop an identity of its own aside from Miami University," said Richard Daniels, CEO of McCullough-Hyde Hospital and member of the OCAC Board of Directors.

Originally built in 1849 for the Oxford College for Women, the building became part of Miami University in 1928 and was put on the historical places registry in 1976. It was last used as a residence hall in 1998.The vintage ballroom was the first to get a face lift with refurbished light fixtures, French doors and a coat of paint to spruce up cracked plaster and other eyesores.

"People come to this building and they just catch fire," said Tom Olver, member of the board of directors. "They just want to see things get going and we all want it to happen. That's the fun part. The other side of it is that we need to raise more money."

The transformation of the first-floor chapel into a high-ceiling theater will be the most expensive overhaul, estimated to cost about $650,000. The ballroom's decoration cost $100,000.

The entire renovation is expected to cost about $1.6 million. That includes repairing the south and north ends of the building, which will be an art gallery and home to the Smith Library of Regional History.

Bob and Biz Campbell have pushed for arts development for several years and spearheaded the drive to get the building on a 20-year lease from the university.

"This is an attempt to make Oxford a more livable place," said Bob Campbell, a member of the board of directors. "It's a quality of life issue."

They've raised $662,000 so far, not including a number of pledges from current and past community members.

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For information, contact the Oxford Community Arts Center at (513) 524-8506.




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