A partnership between two Pocahontas County organizations is resulting in the upgrade and utilization of a high profile building on Main Street in Durbin.
The Pocahontas County Arts Council and the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) will execute an agreement for the use of a former general store building, adjacent to the Rail and Trail Store and across the street from the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad depot.
The agreement is expected to be signed in the coming week. Under the agreement, the Arts Council will complete renovation of the building, which is underway, and set up an art gallery. The CVB will provide a representative to operate the gallery and sell artwork during the summer months, when the vintage railroad attracts a large number of tourists.
Former Durbin Mayor Frank Proud donated the building to the Arts Council about four years ago. Arts Council Treasurer Eric Werner said the partnership is making it possible to begin utilizing the building.
“We wanted to do this but we couldn’t find anybody to run it,” he said. “None of us live up this way. It’s about a 100-mile round trip for me to get up here. Now, we almost have it signed, a memorandum of understanding with the Pocahontas County CVB to have their visitor center in here now and they agreed to run our gallery for us.”
For several years, the CVB has operated a visitor center in the rail depot across the street.
CVB Director Cara Rose said the CVB enjoys a great relationship with the tourist railroad, but that the potential to open a new tourist attraction and business – just across the street – is sufficient reason to relocate. Rose confirmed that the CVB and Arts Council had reached agreement on all points and the memorandum will be signed soon.
Under the agreement, the Arts Council will be held to a timeline for completing renovations and standards for the building’s condition. Last Friday, Werner, Arts Council President Arthur Kreft and Arts Council Secretary Cynthia Guererri were working to install a new floor in the old store building. Fortunately, along with the building, Proud provided upgrades to the building’s restroom, so the Arts Council will not have to renovate those facilities.
Werner said the gallery will be somewhat upscale.
“We’ll have higher end stuff, so we don’t compete with other businesses here,” he said. “Nothing outrageous, I’m just figuring $100 and higher. No five dollar stuff. Hopefully, we get a good response and get a lot of people who want to put their artwork in here.”
“You won’t come here for the mugs or the shot glasses, but you might come here for the saki cups with the matching saki jug,” said Guererri. “More fine art type things. I have several sculptural pieces that would do well in here, that would not do well in a gift shop.”
Art Council membership will not be required, but artwork will be juried to determine if it will be placed on exhibit in the gallery.
“It’s a jury process, like Tamarack,” said Kreft. “When you think of a jury, you think of a number of people. We will have several experts evaluate the piece, whether it be an oil painting or watercolor or pottery, whatever it might be.”
“What we’re trying to do is create another venue where local artists can display their work,” said Guererri. “This will be run like any other gallery. There will be a commission on your work, but we will not need to have somebody come in here and trade their time, like they do with the co-op galleries. It will probably be about a 35 percent commission.”
The Arts Council hopes to open the gallery sometime in early summer. The CVB will maintain its visitor center in the rail depot until the new facility is ready to be occupied.