Athens Arts League announced today (Thursday, Aug. 17) that it received a $40,000 pledge to embark on Phase 2 of a renovation project near Downtown Athens.
Athens Arts League will leverage the funds with in-kind work for its opus, re-purposing an empty building on Washington Street into a music venue called Scout Music House. The venue will offer house concerts, hands-on music related training for students and exhibits to honor Limestone County’s musical legacy.
Dekko Foundation based in Indiana stated in a letter to Athens Arts League President Amy Golden that, “Our research into child development tells us that music can support many other skills, knowledge and character development in children and teens.”
Dekko Foundation’s mission is to foster economic freedom through education. Dekko’s funding is contingent on Athens Arts League raising the remainder $55,000 for Phase 2 through cash donations or in-kind work.
The facility is a former Scout House for Boy and Girl scouts and the former central office for Athens City Schools. It has been vacant for more than four years. The City of Athens leased the facility to Athens Arts League with the challenge of raising funds to renovate it and turn it into a music venue.
Friends of the Scout House Committee Chair Holly Hollman said the community is embracing the challenge along with Athens Arts League. The Athens Lowe’s store, local contracting company Athens Handyman, the Boy Scouts and an anonymous contractor have committed in-kind work. Phase 2 includes completing the exterior repairs, adding a handicap accessible ramp and entrance, and converting the bathroom into a handicap accessible facility.
“Handicap accessibility has always been a necessity for public buildings, and when I learned there was no current handicap access, I felt like it was my duty as a Scout and as a Christian to help,” said Boy Scout John Paul, who is constructing a handicap accessible entrance ramp.
Athens Arts League started renovations at the end of 2016. The League funded Phase 1 at a cost of $35,500, with a Keep America Beautiful/Lowe’s grant and in-kind services. That work included the front façade, drought tolerant landscaping, removal of decaying trees and exposing the original stone fireplace. Phase 3, estimated to cost $69,500, will complete the interior. The goal is to open by late fall/early winter 2018.
"I am so excited that we have a place for children here in Athens to learn about music,” said local singer/songwriter Lillian Glanton, who appeared on American Idol. “When I was in school, I didn't have this opportunity. I always felt like the kid who was doing something different. I don't want any kid who aspires to pursue music to feel left out. The Scout Music House will fill this void.”
Athens Arts League is collaborating with local schools on programs that will provide hands-on experiences for students, such as scheduling, marketing and recording house concerts, public performance opportunities, and use of a student music lab.
“Music speaks when words cannot, and it has shaped me into the person I am today,” Glanton said. “I am so excited about this project and I can't wait to see what the future holds."
Glanton has secured space at High Cotton Arts to work with students on songwriting. High Cotton Arts, also operated by Athens Arts League, is a non-profit downtown arts incubator with a primary focus on the visual arts. It does not offer the privacy Glanton needs but serves as a temporary site until Scout Music House is complete. In addition, Friends of the Scout House Committee member Jim McDole is providing members of Girl Scout Troop 1922 guitar lessons to help them earn their music badges. He will utilize High Cotton Arts or City Hall when they are available until Scout Music House opens.
“We have sought opportunities to give the community ownership with us on this project,” Hollman said. “Girl Scouts from Troop 1922, for example, pull weeds each month. The Boy Scouts have completed one and are starting two more Eagle Scout projects here. Other non-profits like Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful have joined us as have local businesses and the schools.”
Amanda Gudmundsson, director of Fine Arts at Athens City Schools, said Scout Music House will serve many facets of the system’s students.
“Athens City Schools Fine Arts Department is very excited about the opportunity that the Scout Music House will afford our students, and we look forward to Scout Music House becoming a fully functioning physical conduit between ACS Fine Arts and Athens Arts League,” she said. “Not only will it serve as a living historical repository for Athens City, but a facility to further fine arts educational opportunities, such as music, instrumental and choir, visual arts and concert space available to both our traditional and non-traditional students.”
Roger Murrah, award-winning songwriter and Athens native, said he wishes there had been a facility and programs like the Scout Music House when he was a child in Athens. Murrah, who wrote number one hits for artists like Alabama and Alan Jackson, said the project will give students a foundation to explore their interest in music careers.
Those who are interested in supporting Scout Music House can email Hollman at firstname.lastname@example.org or donate online at https://www.ioby.org/project/scoutmusichouse.
Breakdown of in-kind work for Phase 2:
Friends of the Scout House Committee member