Kentuck Art Center Returns to Original Building in Northport

By Elizabeth Elkin | News Editor

Kentuck Art Center Returns to Original Building in Northport

The Kentuck Art Center relocated to its former location at 503 Main Ave. in Northport. CW | Layton Dudley

Kentuck Art Center in Northport returned to its last location after a bat infestation and structural problems forced the center to relocate.

After more than two years of renovations, the Kentuck Art Center returned to its previous historic building at 503 Main Ave. in Northport.

A bat infestation closed the building for extermination. Exa Skinner, program manager at Kentuck, said this caused workers to notice structural problems in the building.

“The entire building was gutted pretty much,” Skinner said. “It’s been an over $1 million renovation that they’ve done.”

The Board of Directors, the executive director and other members of Kentuck and the community worked to restore the historic building, Skinner said. The restoration fund came from a variety of sources, including the city of Northport, the city of Tuscaloosa, Tuscaloosa county and private donors.

The newly renovated building includes a wheelchair accessible entrance ramp and new office space upstairs. The upstairs space, previously used as studio space for artists, now contains offices, a boardroom and a folk art library.

“There are actual office spaces,” Skinner said. “Some people don’t realize how much work goes into planning the festival and planning our year-round programming and keeping up with our members and our volunteers and social media. There’s a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that people don’t realize and it’s very hard to do that without an actual office space.”

Skinner said the building Kentuck has been using as their main space for the last few years will now be used for more programming, classes and as a space for studio artists.

“It’s really opened up a lot of doors for us,” she said.

Moving to the historic building opened doors for Kentuck the first time they moved into it as well, said Steve Davis, owner of Sunheart Metalworks and renter in the Kentuck Courtyard. In 1988 or 1989, Kentuck was located in City Hall, he said.

“They moved it all down here in about 1996 or seven,” Davis said.

Davis said there were meetings when the bat problem was discovered about how much renovating to do on the building.

“In the end, they decided to go all the way,” he said. “I think it’s good for them. It’s good for Kentuck and good for everybody in Northport. We’re hoping it brings more people.”

Almost everything is new, including lighting, Davis said.

“I hope it works out well for them and for all of us,” he said.

Next, Davis said, the plan is to redo things in the Kentuck Courtyard.

“They want to be able to rent it out,” he said. “There’s a small kitchen, a bathroom, a broom closet and some storage rooms.”

Davis said he’s impressed by the renovations to the historic building and is excited about the business it may bring to Kentuck.

“They’re selling handmade works from people from around the country,” Davis said. “It’s a chance to start your collection.”

Other Kentuck artists are excited about the move as well. Carrie Kennedy, owner of Fire Horse Pottery and renter in the Kentuck Courtyard, said she sees the renovations as a new commitment to the organization as a whole.

“It represents a desire to improve the community,” Kennedy said. “To step into their place within the community and be a leader and showcase the arts. It shows a pride in the organization itself.”

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