Repurposing an old fire station – a spot for Creative Placemaking is born



Let us introduce ourselves; we are Mindy and Dan Click, volunteers with the Grayson Gallery & Art Center.

In May of 2011, we approached the Grayson Tourism & Convention Commission with a request… could we open an art gallery in the former Grayson Fire Station building during the biggest festival weekend in the city?  The building, next door to the Tourism Commission’s log cabin and Visitors Center in Grayson, Kentucky, was slated to be demolished so that the land could be used for green space and a parking lot.  It was just sitting there, waiting.  Before we even knew what a “pop-up” event was, we were given permission to use the space for a gallery – temporarily – and began planning for the first exhibit, “Regional Favorites”.  Knowing that the annual Grayson Memory Days event was set for Memorial Day weekend that year and that there would be lots of visitors in Grayson, we set our sights on a weekend of art and I began contacting artists that I’ve known and worked with over the past 30+ years.  During the opening reception that Friday evening – the first of many “F!nal Fr!day” receptions to come, we saw a crowd of over 200 people who stopped by! It was immediately apparent that there was a keen interest in the arts and this would be the first venue in Grayson in which artists and their original artwork could be showcased. During the first year of operations, live music was added, along with catered refreshments.  The City of Grayson stepped up and offered some funding, currently $15,000 per year, we established a Board of Directors, became incorporated, received our 501(c)3 status, and the Grayson Gallery & Art Center was officially born.

Monthly F!nal Fr!day art shows continue and new programs have been added, as we have become a hub for community activities. Our summer Kids Art Camp school field days, and special programming for children with disabilities, are things both the kids and parents enjoy. Second Saturday music jams occur during the summer months, along with Poetry Slams and occasional Cirque and Flow dance exhibits. We provide space for a group of young adults, who perform Rancor, as they had no area in which to practice. In addition, we have hosted Karaoke for clients from the substance abuse rehabilitation center – it is the first time many of them have enjoyed themselves, without drugs and alcohol. Grayson Gallery events have been the location for a few marriage proposals, as well as a wedding this spring. The Gallery is now the “go to” place for community activities.

Programming is mainly funded by grants, several of which have been a result of attending Brushy Fork Institute at Berea College. Grayson Gallery board members have attended several times since 2011 and have benefited from training and the connections made. We attended in 2017 and became members of the steering committee for an Appalachian networking group, which has become; What’s Next EKY?!  It was decided that Learning Journeys should be one of the first tools, to help communities acquire knowledge from each other, with the first one held at Appalshop, in Whitesburg, KY, to study the Letcher County Culture Hub. It was then recognized that the Grayson Gallery could adopt a similar model as a community hub and the Grayson Gallery received a Central Appalachian Network grant to investigate the possibility of establishing a hub in Carter County, KY.

There is so much more to share, and many things coming together. Go to the What’s Next EKY?! website and the Facebook pages at What’s Next EKY, Grayson Gallery & Art Center, Inc., and Carter County Community Partners.

Coming up, we will talk about next steps as we move forward with forming a community hub!