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Art school nears completion

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By April Wright, Reporter

Chestnut Creek School of the Arts has reached the point of substantial completion, and is expected to hold its first class in the permanent home in February, director Chris Shackelford said.

Until the school opens early next year, a series of art classes will continue to be held in the Vaughan building beside the Galax Public Library.

Shackelford said even though she, Galax officials and others had hoped and dreamed the school would open earlier this year, scheduling the first class for February allows for flexibility and time to work on details. Construction workers have begun working on the punch list items for completion.

Almost a year ago, the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke scheduled its grand opening just as the doors were opening, “but this will give us some time,” she noted.

As Shackelford walks through the former First National Bank building at North Main and West Grayson, she enters the lobby and shows how the design team tries to preserve and replicate original molding to maintain historic value of the building to receive tax credits. Here, she said, will be the multi-functional reception and retail area, where art demonstrations and seminars could be held.

The facility includes eight classrooms, a soundproof booth for music, a break room and a three-stop elevator. One classroom that is expected to hold industrial-type classes for jewelry making and metal and leather working is almost complete, including furnishings.

Another classroom, with tiled flooring, will be the place for painting and 3-D arts, and another could be used as an artisan residency, Shackelford said.

“Our enrollment has increased. And lots of people are calling to take Martha Spencer’s music class.”

Shackelford said officials from Vinton will soon visit the school, as they look to model an aspect of their town after Galax.

“They will be looking at the role the school plays, as well as the historic area. The school is going to help make Galax a destination.”

The city bought the building for $104,000 nearly five years ago. Earlier this year, South End Construction of Vinton placed a bid of $661,509 — a favorable bid, considering Galax had estimated the work at $800,000.

“It’s not uncommon to have unforeseen issues arise, but we were fortunate to have low bids.”

A grand opening will be held April 16-17, with a “Parade of the Arts,” a black-tie event, concerts, art exhibits, an art auction and draping of the building.

The grand opening will coincide with and help celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Shackelford said the fabric to be draped over the building and hang to the ground (possibly throughout grand opening week) has been donated by the Maya Romanoff Corp., a leading manufacturer of innovative interior surfacing materials, of Chicago, Ill.

As the company celebrates its 40th anniversary, it has planned to help stimulate the economy by assisting programs such as Chestnut Creek, Shackelford said.

“I’m gratified by the people that have stepped up. We have a finance team, facilities team, education team and marketing team” that are making sure the school opens without a hitch.

“It’s just remarkable and awesome to be part of this, as we work to keep everything local.”

• For information about the school or to see a class schedule, visit chestnutcreekarts.org; phone 236-3500.