City Council not ready to fund Artisan Center

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By Jesef Williams

Artists will have their own studios to render new creations. College instructors will have more space to hold classes and the community will be able to attend workshops and exhibits that highlight local art.

That’s the vision of Christina Chastain, a local artist hoping to open The Artisan’s Center in downtown Lancaster. She’s been working on the project for about two years.

But she needs funding to see her vision come true.

She has asked Lancaster City Council and County Council each for about $24,000, which would go toward startup and operating costs of the center in its first year.

Neither council has awarded the center funding.

Chastain speaks at meeting

Chastain appeared before City Council on Tuesday, offering reasons why she thinks the center should be funded.

The center – which will be housed in the old Badcock furniture store on Main Street – would give locals an alternative outlet, Chastain said.

Residents could come see live performances, exhibits and demonstrations that relate to dance, theater, music, pottery and many other art forms.

Chastain’s idea is for art students at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster to use the center for studio space and instructors to teach classes there.

Having more people in the downtown area would boost business and liven up the area, she said.

“This will help keep people in Lancaster,” said Chastain, who hopes to open the center by summer.

“The goal is to have that center for the artists and the community,” she said. “We need it desperately in this county. It’s a light of hope.”

Several residents, including local artists, voiced their support for The Artisan’s Center during the public comment period.

Lorraine Brewer, one of those supporters, said the city would be passing up a great opportunity if it does not  fund the center.

“It will be put to good use,” Brewer said about the funding. “Art can build self confidence. It builds self worth. We are worth this investment.”

Council’s concerns

Chastain told council that the center needs money from the two councils just this one time. After that, the center should be able to support itself.

Mayor Joe Shaw asked Chastain whether she had any grants lined up if neither the city nor county agreed to fund the center.

Council members asked questions about the center’s board of directors, which is now being reassembled.

Chastain said she dissolved the board late last year because of a conflict with one of its members.

She has said that internal strife, in part, has caused the city and county councils to hesitate on funding.

Councilwoman Tamara Green asked Chastain what is being done differently in picking the center’s second board.

Chastain said the issue was a rift with one person that shouldn’t arise again.

“It was a power struggle,” Chastain said about the former board member, whom she did not name. “This is a group effort. It’s not for one person’s benefit.”

Council later met in closed session, in which members concluded that Chastain should work on securing grants and also completing the paperwork necessary for the center to qualify as a nonprofit organization.

Council expects Chastain to come back with an update in a few weeks.

“We want to make sure that we got our Ts crossed,” Shaw said.


Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1152