City not ready to fund center

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By Jesef Williams

Christina Chastain will have to wait at least a few more weeks before a decision is made about her funding request.

Chastain, a local artist, has asked Lancaster City Council for $24,000 for startup costs for The Artisans Center, a building planned to house arts classes, studio space, performances and exhibits that showcase local art.

Its location will be the old Badcock furniture store on Main Street. Chastain hopes the center will eventually own the building.

Chastain gave City Council an update in January about the status of the plans for The Artisans Center. At the meeting, she was hoping council would award the center funds from its hospitality tax fund.

But council decided to hold off until Chastain secured outside grant money and formed as a nonprofit organization.

At the March 24 council meeting, Chastain gave a multimedia presentation highlighting the way arts have impacted city residents recently.

Her aim is for council members to envision how beneficial The Artisans Center can be.

“The center will function as a catalyst for tourism downtown for our expanding arts district and serve  as an exhibit space with multiple purposes,” Chastain said in the grant application to the city.

“The ability to have an arts center of this magnitude will bring a tremendous amount of visitors to our city on a regular basis,” she said.

As he said before, Mayor Joe Shaw said he wants to see Chastain secure other funding sources.

He said he believes the center is a worthwhile project.

“I think it has a lot of potential,” Shaw said.

But Councilman John Howard questioned whether The Artisans Center would qualify for hospitality tax funding.

The hospitality tax is a 2 percent tax levied on all food, beverage and alcohol sales in bars, restaurants and other food establishments in the city limits.

Hospitality tax revenue can only be used for tourism-related projects, including building repairs, construction, beautification, infrastructure repair and promotion.

Howard asked the $24,000 could come out a special downtown reserve fund the city established years ago.

But no vote was taken and the matter was tabled for future discussion.

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