JACKSONVILLE — Art Presence Art Center wanted a three-year lease from the city for more reasons besides investing in improvements to the town’s former jail building.

“When you plan exhibitions, you hope to do it long term because artists need to plan for those things,” said gallery representative Anne Brooke. “If you want a special theme, in order to do that, artists have to really prepare for that.”

The City Council last week unanimously approved a three-year lease after giving the group one-year agreements since 2012. The gallery, located next to the courthouse at 206 N. 5th St., will shut down in November for the work.

“I just felt like we couldn’t do that (work) if we didn’t have a three-year lease,” said Brooke.

Sheetrock will replace burlap covering on walls in the gallery at a cost of about $3,100. The group had hoped to use laminate on the floor in place of the current carpet but were told that the subsurface is too irregular to allow for that, so they will look at other options. Floor covering is expected to run $3,000 to $4,000, and the group is seeking a grant to help with that expense. .

More than 5,000 visitors viewed art at the center last year. Classes and events are held regularly. There are currently 27 members in the group who staff the galley.

“They can promote their own work and kind of be docents for other people’s work,” said Brooke.

Jacksonville raku ceramic artist John Dodero, a member, says the gallery gives him local exposure, although he markets much of his art nationally.

“It’s also a way I can try out new things to get some feedback. It’s always a benefit to put pieces in front of people and see how they respond,” said Dodero. He will be showing a new design style in September when he and Medford photographer Tom Glassman have an exhibition in the gallery.

The council kept the current $375 monthly rental rate with annual inflationary increases matching the consumer price index. Art Presence spends up to $600 per month on the lease, utility bills and internet connection. Insurance is about $600 per year.

The Southern Oregon Historical Society’s Children’s Museum had been located in the building. The lower floor that houses the displays totals 1,600 square feet. The upper floor, which includes a meeting room, is about 750 square feet.

Art Presence occupied the building in April 2012 on a sub-lease agreement prior to the city taking ownership in November of that year. The group did art ambles in downtown, with merchants displaying works the three previous years.

The city received the jail, courthouse and other structures from Jackson County in 2012. City officials issued one-year leases while they considered how to use the buildings. City administrative offices have now been relocated to the courthouse, and the planning department is housed in a nearby annex.

Community groups are welcome to use the meeting room without charge, and currently Sanctuary One and the Boy Scouts use it regularly.

“We like to get people into the building, that’s the whole idea,” said Brooke.

More information can be found at art-presence.org. 

— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com