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'Origami Fest' held for opening of arts center in Ashland

The Ashland Art Center downtown is celebrating its grand opening with "Origami Fest: Enfolding the Community in Art" this weekend.

The celebration features free origami classes and film screenings today, Saturday and Sunday.

A gala and auction is planned from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Tickets cost $20 and are available at the center, Hanson Howard Gallery and Paddington Station.

The nonprofit art center at 357 E. Main St. aims to become a destination for locals and tourists with its on-site gallery, working artists' studios, community classrooms and services to support artists' careers.

"This has been a group effort and a fine example of what is possible when a community comes together to achieve a common goal, regardless of the circumstances," said founder and Executive Director Denise Baxter. "This new resource will serve our community in so many ways."

The city of Ashland gave a $20,000 economic and cultural development grant to the Ashland Art Center. During the spring budgeting process, the Ashland Citizens' Budget Committee put strings on the money that the full amount would be awarded if the Ashland Art Center raised $125,000 — the halfway point of the center's $250,000 fundraising goal.

Some budget committee members worried that launching the center during a recession was a bad idea, while others said it would help stimulate the economy and help artists build their careers if it succeeds.

The center has received the full city grant. So far, the organization has raised nearly $135,000 in cash and in-kind donations, Baxter said.

The center is offering free origami classes to community members this weekend, thanks to a donation from a board member to cover teachers' salaries, Baxter said.

Origami classes are offered from noon to 1 p.m., 2 to 3 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. today; 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. and 3 to 4 p.m. Sunday. Each class covers a different origami shape, from folded boxes to irises.

There also will be demonstrations of chair- painting each day starting at 10 a.m.

The art center will screen the 30-minute film "Between the Folds" at 2 p.m. today and at 2 p.m. Saturday. The film features some of the world's leading origami experts making new discoveries in the art form.

For a full list of classes, demonstrations, lectures and film screenings, visit www.ashlandartcenter.org/images/AAC/OrigamiFestFlyer.pdf. The document lists fees for the classes because it was created before the board member's donation.

Some classes require registration. To register, call 482-2772 during operating hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Ashland Art Center is still seeking grants to fund spaces with equipment that members of the public can use during open studio hours. Volunteers with carpentry skills also are needed.

For more information on the center, call 482-2772 or visit ashlandartcenter.org.

Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.