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Art Center of the Bluegrass Plans Expansion and National Glass Museum

February 12, 2023


The Art Center of the Bluegrass has announced a venture to renovate and restore the historic property at 415 W. Main Street. The building is located next door to the Art Center’s current location and the acquisition will double the organization’s footprint and space. The building will be purchased by the City of Danville and leased to the Art Center for the next 100 years. The Art Center is also working with the Fiscal Court to secure their financial support. Both governmental entities are strong partners on this project.

At the heart of the expansion is a plan to establish a glass museum and gallery that will honor the extensive artistic legacy of Stephen R. Powell. The proposed museum will also include works by Lino Tagliapietra, Dale Chihuly, and other top-tier glass artists. Executive Director Niki Kinkade says that the museum has the potential to attract visitors from around the region and glass enthusiasts from around the world. She says, “As the Art Center approaches its 20th anniversary, this project will generate new cultural opportunities for community members and visitors alike, while dramatically enhancing the region’s creative arts ecosystem.”

The plan for the glass museum grew out of the Stephen Powell retrospective exhibit the Art Center mounted in the fall. Kinkade explains that public response to the exhibit was so enthusiastic that it sparked conversations within the organization about how to continue making Powell’s artwork available to the community. “Through the exhibit, we were reminded again of how much Stephen and his art have shaped our community and how exceptionally fortunate Danville was to have him,” says Kinkade. “We knew that we wanted to find a way to permanently preserve his legacy.” Kinkade says that the Art Center is working closely with Stephen’s widow, Shelly, on the development of the museum. “Steve had a strong connection with the Art Center of the Bluegrass from early on, beginning with his tenure on the first board of directors” says Shelly. “What better place to feature a retrospective of Steve’s work. Our children, Piper and Oliver, and I so appreciate the Art Center’s commitment to make this a permanent exhibit, where Steve’s work can be viewed and enjoyed.”

City Manager Earl Coffey says that the City of Danville was immediately a strong supporter of the project. “This undertaking fits perfectly with the City’s Downtown Master Plan,” says Coffey. “The combination of historic preservation and expanded arts programming really is a perfect example of transformative community development.” The property at 415 W. Main Street was constructed in 1908, one year prior to the Art Center’s building next door at 401 W. Main. The building’s age and prominent location on Main Street, within Danville’s downtown business district, makes it an important structure in Danville’s architectural history.

In addition to the establishment of the glass museum, the new building allows for a needed expansion of art programs. Restoration of the third-floor ballroom will create a new, elegant downtown space for large art classes and experiences, town meetings, weddings, and other community events.

Boyle County Judge Executive Trille Bottom says she is excited about this project and sees the value for the County and the community overall. “The Art Center is a vital cultural asset for our entire region,” says Bottom. “This expansion will enhance their already-strong partnerships with the Boyle County schools and support their commitment to expanding arts access to all members of our community.”

Beginning this spring, the Art Center will undertake the restoration of the property to reverse a long trajectory of slow exterior decline. Kinkade says that the building needs a new roof, thorough tuckpointing, repainting, and the installation of an exterior staircase to meet modern safety standards. The Art Center’s commitment to accessibility also necessitates the installation of an elevator in the building. Interior preservation will include the full restoration of the 3rd floor ballroom.

Since its establishment in 2003 (as the Community Arts Center), the Art Center of the Bluegrass has played an important – and growing – role in Kentucky’s creative sector. Chris Cathers, Executive Director of the Kentucky Arts Council, says that, in the twenty years since its founding, the Art Center has transformed the arts landscape of Central Kentucky. “It has been exciting to watch the growth and development of this organization,” says Cathers. “We look forward to this next chapter and the benefits the expansion will bring to the region and the state.”