Story last updated at 4:36 p.m. Thursday, June 13, 2002

$100,000 Rasmuson grant caps arts council drive
by Carey James
Staff Writer

After several years of fund-raising, the Homer Council on the Arts finally has enough money to buy the building they currently call home on Pioneer Avenue.

The milestone came last week after the Rasmuson Foundation announced it was awarding the council a $100,000 grant for the purchase and renovation of the building. Combined with last year's $50,000 matching grant and the money from selling its old building, the council is now ready to move on the purchase. Council Director Janet Bowen said it plans to sign on the line in August.

"This is a huge benchmark," Bowen said.

While dreams of renovating the building have been in the planning stages since the council moved into the 2400-square-foot former Pate Insurance office two years ago, Bowen said it now hopes to hold public meetings to discuss design and what facilities are most wanted by the public.

"We know what we would like," she said. "Now we want to know what the public would like."

Renovations, which preliminary estimates have said would cost around $184,000, will focus not only on the construction of a stage and 75-chair sitting area, but also on the basement area, which is currently unfinished.

One program that is virtually guaranteed a space in the lower level of the building is the Art for Kids program, which has been using the upstairs back area successfully. Another popular idea is to build a photography studio and perhaps some studio space for artists.

"We are going to re-evaluate our needs," Bowen said.

The public meetings will likely be held later in the year when people have more time to participate, she said.

Bowen said the council would likely never have secured the second Rasmuson Foundation grant if not for the community support raising the initial matching grant funds. Groups and individuals from all over the community donated, including the Snomads, who wrote a check for more than a $1,000 when it heard the council was within a stone's throw of meeting its goal, and the Pates, who rented the building to the council for two years at minimal cost.

"The community really met that challenge," Bowen said.

Not only will the $100,000 grant help with the building purchase costs, but Bowen said the foundation's donation adds credibility to the organization, and opens opportunities from other national grant foundations.

"It's a big show of support," she said. "It's really exciting."