The new home of the Florence Art Trail Gallery is moving up the list in the downtown revitalization schedule. Work is beginning on the new site located at 142 North Dargan Street, Florence, SC. The existing three story structure stood for many years as the Rainwater Furniture Store and according to records was established in 1939. Florence City Council, in an executive session, July, 2015, unanimously voted to purchase the multi level structure as the permanent location for the Art Trail Gallery. Once updated and remodeled the location will soon house art exhibitions and competitions for local and regional artist, artisans and photographers. The ATG will once again be a popular venue for special events, musical performances and area schools student art works. The Rainwater building being located in the heart of the downtown revitalization is conveniently located close to hotels, restaurants and shopping.
The Art Trail Gallery has survived several moves since its inception in 2008; which started a popular career with local and regional artists and stood for what the city recognized as the art hub of Florence. Located in the downstairs of the Waters building on South Dargan Street it was shared by sculptor Alex Palkovich. The (ATG) gallery; operating strictly with all volunteers quickly became popular; centering around work done by amateur and professional artists. The ATG provided an opportunity to new artists as a place to feel comfortable in showcasing their artistic ability for the first time, along with more established professionals.
Increasing popularity of the Florence downtown revitalization made the second move for the Art Trail necessary, as the Waters Building was sold to private interest and the present location would be vacated to make room for the new Florence County Museums’ public art functions and events.
The gallery, under the leadership of the Florence Downtown Development Corporation, was then moved to the corner of Evans and Irby Street in the vacant Bo Smith Furniture building. There it continued to surge ahead in achieving more popularity, not only from the art community, but from the general public. That location became a favorite for public functions downtown as it served as a place to host private events, such as, college reunions, political rallies, small weddings and was known as the people’s gallery.
As the downtown continued to thrive and more private sectors wanted to buy into the progression of the new Florence downtown; the gallery found itself once again without a home. The Bo Smith Building was sold for the Morgan Project. Aspects of the continuation of the Art Trail Gallery surviving hinged on being conveniently located for the public and accessible to other businesses, therefore increasing economic development for the entire downtown. The public rallied and with assistance from Councilman George Jebaily and commitment from the FDDC and Florence City Council the permanent location on North Dargan was authorized to be purchased.
First stages of remodeling 142 North Dargan Street have already begun with the repair of the outside wall; architectural drawings are in final phases for approval, along with taking bids for construction.
The Art Trail Gallery’s new home will be a state of the art facility. When entering the main double doors, patrons will notice the high open ceiling that can house large art installations. Artists will be proud to have their work displayed on a professional hanging system mounted to movable track walls. The mobile walls will allow for closing off space for classrooms, different configuration of art exhibits and the needs for larger events. Lighting will be selected that will enhance the works of art, but not damage the quality. Visitors will still be able to buy special artisan gifts in a separate location. New heat and air, security system and fire sprinkler system will be installed during construction.
All bathrooms located in the rear of the building will be handicap accessible. Positioned in the back of the gallery will be a full catering kitchen with plenty of counter space and deep sinks. Several storage locations will house tables and chairs for classes and special events.
The first floor facility will allow for the rental of the building for various functions for a fee and patrons will find plenty of parking available in the newly constructed areas located on the side and rear of the building. A central control system will allow staff to regulate necessary lighting during rentals, performances, or special events.
The Gallery will remain in partnership with the FDDC Not-for-Profit status and as the ATG will continue to grow and play a vital role in the educational and leisure experiences of the public, there will be a need for a paid Director. According to city officials the new facility should be open by early 2017. Plans are in development for beginning exhibits and a call for artists will be publicized in the near future.
For additional information please contact: David Hobbs, Retiring Director, ATG by e-mail at (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call 843/206-8116.
Editor’s Notes: I took a photo of what I thought was the building last year sometime when I was in Florence viewing some art. You can see security is not going to be a problem, as the building is located next to a Police Substation. It’s nice to see a city in SC that can take on a job like this for the art community and finish it in the same decade it was announced. Some cities (World’s most popular city in magazines) just can’t seem to do something like this. Our hats go off to the leaders in Florence.