Lakeland Arts group renews search for future museum site

With sale of the old city hall to a nearby church all but complete, Lakeland Art Association will look elsewhere to establish an art museum.

Interest in the property from the art association led the city to decide to dispose of the land.

But while Lakeland had eyed the property at High and Market streets as a home for an arts museum, the city – rather than give the property away – made it available to the highest bidder. This turned out to be the neighbor to the west, Warsaw Evangelical Presbyterian church, which acquired the property for $140,000 and plans to use it for additional parking.

On Monday, LAA representative Dave Taylor appeared before the city council to express his disappointment, but also to thank council members who supported the proposal.

“We’re not going to quit yet,” Taylor told council of his desire to find a permanent home for the group.

Lakeland has been in existence for about 60 years. They have moved many times over the years. In the past 23 years, they’ve developed a gallery, but have had to move five times, Taylor.

He said the experience with the old city hall has helped shape and redefine what the arts group sees as possible: a museum that would eventually be close to self-sustaining that could become a tourism draw for the city.

They said they saw the old city hall as a final solution, one that would bring a sense of permanence where the group could thrive and grow and become a focal point for tourism.

But in late May, The church bid $140,000 – the minimum bid permitted by the city – on the final day of a 60-day auction window.

The board of works approved the bid Friday.

The arts group  found a lot of support for their idea, Taylor said.

He said more than one organization and other private supporters had expressed a willingness to financially support the project, but that was contingent upon them finding a facility first.

“There was a lot of support from people. We just didn’t have that kind of money,” Taylor said.

He said they hope to retain a sense of momentum.

“It enlightened me and opened my eyes as to what can occur in this community,” he said. The latest setback also brought about some optimism.

“When I look at the possibilities and potential that’s here in Warsaw, it astounds me,” Taylor told council members. “I hope this works out at some point.”

The group would like to find a property that has at least 5,000 square feet.

Its current home is a small residence – about 1,400 square feet – at 302 E. Winona Ave. in Warsaw.