This spring, Vermillion’s Washington Street Arts Center was told by its insurance company that their roof needed to be replaced or they would risk losing their coverage.
The roof of the 111-year-old building, formerly the St. Agnes Church, costs $34,000 to replace.
Now, after about a month of fundraising, the Arts Center has raised $15,000 – almost half of its goal. Phyllis Packard, treasurer of the Vermillion Area Arts Council (VAAC), said they’re hoping to have work begin on the new roof in May in order to meet a deadline set by the insurance company.
“Somewhere in May, it will get done,” Packard said. “Come heck or high water.”
The VAAC has submitted grants, held fundraisers, reached out to members, approached area businesses and started a GoFundMe page to solicit donations for the project. Some donors heard about the center’s needs in other ways, and sent gifts.
“We have had a great response just through some of the news articles, of people sending in money for a roof,” Packard said.
Members of USD and Vermillion arts community regularly make use of the Arts Center in various ways, including art exhibitions, a summer arts camp for community children, art classes for adults and even clog dancing classes.
There’s also a small community vegetable garden behind the building, and part of the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Research Conference was held there last month.
Chris Meyer, a USD art professor, teaches an art installation every fall at the arts center. Installations, he said, are intended to create an overall “experience” in a certain space – in this case, at the arts center.
During art installations, Meyer said his classes use practically every part of the building, including the basement, as a part of the exhibit.
“We’re really thankful, I’m really thankful for that building and that space,” Meyer said. “We kind of take over the whole space.”
Meyer added that the VAAC is unique in Vermillion in the way it facilitates artistic endeavors.
“It allows possibilities,” Meyers said. “There isn’t another place in town where we could really do that.”
Rebecca Froelich, a senior USD art student who has taken the installation class, said she participates regularly in VAAC events, and that the center is a focal point of arts activities in town.
“I think it’s a really important venue for local art here in Vermillion,” she said. “A lot of activity regarding the arts happens there.”
Froelich, who also attended Saturday night’s Art Carnival at the center, said the location works well for artistic events like the installation.
“Some people even made pieces referencing the fact that the VAAC used to be a church,” Froelich said. “And so it’s a really nice space, really meaningful.”
Riva Sharples, director of the VAAC, said tending to the building itself is a major objective of the group.
“The mission of the arts council is two-fold: number one, to advocate for the arts, to provide opportunities for artists, to spread the love of art in the community, to host programs, things like that,” Sharples said. “But the other function of the arts council has been, since acquiring the building in 1990, is to take care of the historic building.”
The costly roof issue, Sharples said, wasn’t something the VAAC anticipated.
“One of the problems with a volunteer organization is that sometimes things like, you know, what’s going on with the roof, isn’t always tracked closely,” Sharples said. “So it kind of snuck up on us, and that’s why it’s an emergency need because we didn’t have a lot of warning about this.”