Friday, June 25, 2004

Arts center built on hope, initiative



By Jennifer Edwards
Enquirer staff writer

[photo]
Making clay tiles for a mosaic are (from left) Madeline Marks, 17, an intern, Lauren Paytes, 12, art director Lisa Merida-Paytes, Lily Paytes, 4, and Chuckie Horne, 7.
Enquirer photos by GARY LANDERS
KENNEDY HEIGHTS - A $540,000 community arts center has opened on Montgomery Road in a former funeral home.

The Kennedy Heights Arts Center is the result of a nonprofit agency sponsored by residents of Kennedy Heights and four other neighborhoods.

For neighbors, the center symbolizes the pride, enthusiasm and resourcefulness of the area, said Kathy Spoon of Kennedy Heights, one of the center's board members.

"I don't think any organization can be successful without a large community supporting it," she said.

The 5,000-square-foot, three-story building sits on two acres, has 21 rooms and more than 100 pieces of artwork on display and for sale.

More than 100 local established and emerging artists contributed to the center's three ongoing exhibits One of them is donated as a fund-raiser.

Other artists want to exhibit there and join its arts guild.

"We've had great response," said the center's art director, Lisa Merida-Paytes. "I cannot carry my cell phone on me anymore because there are so many artists wanting to be a part of this."

Now through Aug. 21, public receptions will be held each Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m. with featured artists. A $10 donation at the door is suggested.

A wide range of art classes began last week, including for children. They have a $15 materials fee.

Classes run Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Another session of children's classes begins July 3.

Columbia Savings Bank told supporters that if they could put up $40,000, it would give them a loan for the rest of the mortgage.

Participating neighbors are from Kennedy Heights, Pleasant Ridge, Silverton, Columbia Township and Amberley Village.

The city of Cincinnati gave the group two $50,000 grants. One went toward the building's purchase and the second will be used to make repairs, Spoon said.

B.J. Gardner lives within walking distance. She painted three rooms.

"It's revitalized the neighborhood," said the 30-year Kennedy Heights resident. "I've lived here forever and we watched it deteriorate. We had our fingers crossed something would save it."

Volunteerism didn't end when the center opened last weekend.

Neighbors are mowing the lawn, planting gardens, cutting down trees, painting and sanding.

A Boy Scout troop is designing and plans to build an amphitheater.

E-mail jedwards@enquirer.com.




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