Galax art school work continues

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By April Wright, Reporter

Although renovations to transform the former First National Bank in downtown Galax into Chestnut Creek School of the Arts is on time and on budget for now, CCSA Director Chris Shackelford said it is difficult to estimate a completion date due to electrical issues.

Construction began Jan. 26, and South End Construction of Vinton has 215 days to complete the job from its notice to proceed, which was received Jan. 6. However, Shackelford said since installing an elevator is a big time-consumer, construction may take a little longer than city officials had hoped.

They wanted to have it complete by the first week in August.

In fact, City Manager Keith Holland was wishing that the building would be ready in time for the annual Leaf & String Festival, which began today, Friday.

“Although we'd love to have it ready by [August], we're not holding out for that,” said Holland. “If it does happen, that will just be an added bonus.”

Instead, CCSA will be luring the attention of visitors through artisan demonstrations this weekend. The Leaf & String Festival will include art demonstrations of all kinds — pottery, blacksmithing, painting, drawing and much more.

With tons of hands-on activities, festival-goers will also have the opportunity to explore the arts themselves.

Though the art school seems a few months away from completion, it already has gathered the support of the community, with a slew of volunteers ready to help out in the ground work of getting the school up and running.

And now, Shackelford and Associate Director Penny Moseley are in the planning stages for the school's grand opening ceremony in 2010 and its 2010 marketing plan and class catalog development.

The official grand opening will be held next year to coincide with the 75th anniversaries of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Old Fiddler's Convention. A soft opening will be held later this year.

The 8,800-square-foot building, which was acquired by the city in 2006 for $104,000, will incorporate eight classrooms, a music room and a sound booth for recordings, an elevator, a janitor's closet and a break room.

During a tour of the facility last week, Shackelford showed the beginning renovation work to a jewelry-making studio that will be able to hold as many as 15 students, a spacious room on the top floor that could be used as an artist residency and another that will be used for textiles and painting.

Just outside of a music classroom, she points out a newly insulated sound-proof room, as part of the music class.

Except for replacing the roof, most of the $661,509 worth of construction work will be inside the building. For now, electrical wiring, plumbing and plastering is the focus.

For more than a year, a steering committee for CCSA — consisting of mostly artisans from Galax, Grayson and Carroll counties — has been planning classes, working on public relations material, recruiting instructors and creating partnerships.

Various classes are temporarily housed at the Vaughan building next to the Galax Public Library.