PREBLE COUNTY — Two Preble County entities received money from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commissions’ (OFCC) Cultural Facilities Grant, which helped both establish spaces for the community to enjoy.
According to J.C. Benton, OFCC Communications Manager, the grants are put into legislation by members of the Ohio General Assembly in the State’s Biennial Capital Bill. Local organizations can contact their local legislatures to appeal for the funds. Once construction begins and funds are released, the organization would send OFCC invoices to be reimbursed for the work.
“We think it is vital to partner with these entities to ensure the history and culture of Preble County stays around for years to come,” he said. “This Cultural Facility Grant is something we are proud of. Ohio is just filled with wonderful historical and cultural facilities. We want to make sure future generations have the ability to appreciate these entities and make sure the preservation of these facilities and the emphasis on cultural arts can be enjoyed by everybody.”
The Preble County Art Association received $250,000 for the relocation of their facility.
According to Director Vicky Fanberg, the Preble County Art Association completed the rehabilitation of the Stotler property at 207 E. Main St. in downtown Eaton and uses it as its primary facility as of July 19, 2019. Funds [from OFCC grant] have been used for new HVAC, plumbing, electrical, fire suppression, second means of egress, ADA entry, an elevator and the restructuring of the front staircase. This is in addition to ADA bathrooms, demolition of old remodels and updated paint and flooring throughout the building.
“Our grand opening celebration had an estimated 500-plus attendees, including many folks that were new to the organization. In the first month of operations, there were 1,400 visitors with over 500 of those engaging in workshops, classes and programs. This makes up one third of the visitors that we saw for the entire year
“Since Aug. 1, there has been a car show, truck show and two parades in downtown Eaton going right past our front door. These events have brought in new visitors who have looked at our exhibits and engaged in art projects. The Preble County Art Association is now positioned to reach more people to give access to art and culture to the community. The addition of space is allowing us to expand our program offerings. We are now able to offer our at-risk teen program twice per week because we have more classrooms. We have added a yoga class and new sewing classes to our roster as well,” Fanberg said.
She added, “The new building has been the buzz around the county, and we have been asked by many clubs, programs and schools to come visit the space and have private art programs. It seems that Preble County has been very hungry for art and now that we are in a location that is visible (and beautiful) they are anxious to be nourished. It is too early to have any data on long term impact, but we do know that there have been many positive comments made about the potential impact for downtown Eaton and Preble County.”
The Village of Lewisburg received $25,000 to purchase the Bicentennial Store property in hopes of eventually turning it into a museum area.
According to Municipal Manager Jeff Sewert, they were informed of the grant program and decided to use the money to establish the Bicentennial Store, which they had just leased at the time. With these funds, they purchased the store, which they hope to establish as a hub for the village’s history.
“We were fortunate to receive the money from OFCC,” Sewert said. “We bought it in 2019 — we purchased the property. Now, we are in the process of rehabilitating it and making it a museum to store everything from the bicentennial and make it a destination point, where people can come in and see the history of Lewisburg.
“I think this was a great opportunity to preserve our community’s history and I’m glad these dollars were here. We’re going to preserve our history for years to come. Without this money, this lot would have been vacant, but it’s really become a focal point of the village, with the green space established as Bicentennial Square as well,” Sewert said.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH