Ceiling collapse pushes AVCA out of its home, prompts search for a new one

Ronie Schwend and Lela Brugger, members of Auburn Valley Creative Arts, study the water damage and protect their noses from the reek of saturated carpet and water damaged walls in AVCA
Ronie Schwend and Lela Brugger, members of Auburn Valley Creative Arts, study the water damage and protect their noses from the reek of saturated carpet and water damaged walls in AVCA's former gallery on South Division Street.
— image credit: Robert Whale/Auburn Reporter

One day in early June members of Auburn Valley Creative Arts were inside the tiny, rented office at 108 South Division St. for their regular Thursday watercolor classes.

With a show coming on later in the month and a fresh chance to display the works of their hearts, spirits and hands, everybody was jazzed.

Good times.

Then, literally overnight, everything collapsed around them.

Well, part of it anyway.

"The ceiling fell in," said Lela Brugger, AVCA secretary. "It's a mess, oh, it's a mess."

Add to the noun "mess" the adjective "reeking," as in "reeking, saturated carpet," and walls and you have a tidy grasp of the situation.

Fortunately, Brugger said, thanks to a volunteer's quick notification, artists rallied and got the paintings, pottery and metal components out of the water's way the next morning, so no art was harmed.

But the show itself had to be put off. And today, the 57 members of AVCA find themselves without a home to display their art.

"It's rough. We had that place for more than a year and a half. It's been nice to have it for our shows and everything," Brugger said.

Neither has the AVCA been the only party affected by the ceiling collapse. State Sen. Joe Fain, R-47th, whose local office was across the hall from the AVCA's, had hoped to be in there until the end of the year, but the collapse forced his staff to find new digs on the double.

"It expedited our move," Fain said Tuesday.

All tenants of the building, including the Auburn Area Chamber of Commerce. were short-termers anyway. Teutsch Partners, LLC, which purchased the buildings on the Gambini block from the City of Auburn at the end of 2013, plans to demolish the structure shortly to make room for new apartment complexes.

Tenants say the ceiling collapse merely accelerated the move-out timetable.

According to Nancy Wyatt, chamber president and CEO, the organization had been expected to begin the move to its new office at 25 Second St. NW, four blocks from the chamber's present location, on Monday.

"We are excited for our new location," Wyatt wrote in her online message from the chamber. "It has a great layout, and we will be able to continue the valuable service as the leading regional chamber of commerce, visitor information center/tourism office that you have come to expect."

"We're going to move and rent space from the chamber," Fain said.

Meanwhile, AVCA keeps on looking.

"We've been trying to find a place. We've been talking to several people, and we're waiting to see what happens," Brugger said. "We're looking for something that we can afford that we could move into. Even if it's small at this point, we could expand it later on."

AVCA member Ronie Schwend added: "If we get a place and clean it up and hang art, it's a definite selling point to get people coming and going. That's what happens when a place has something in it."

"We are very saddened by this turn of events, but our board and volunteers are very optimistic and already discussing plans for our future. If you have any ideas or happen to hear of any locations you think might be an affordable possibility for AVCA, we would love to hear about it," read a statement on the AVCA Website.

Anyone who would like to help AVCA's cause may call Brugger at 253-833-9181.

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