Fixing the Bricks

By Greg Seiter // Photo by Ryan Trares

While its interior classrooms have been overflowing with artistic expression for more than 50 years now, the solid masonry exterior wrap of the Southside Art League’s instructional building, also known as the pump house, has been steadily deteriorating, brick by brick. Fortunately, the Greenwood facility will soon receive a much-needed facelift thanks to a $20,000 grant from Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation.

The pump house was once part of a 30-room sanitarium where mineral baths were offered as a remedy for various health-related issues. The building survived a 1914 fire that otherwise destroyed the sanitarium and eventually became the art league’s instructional facility, the larger of two buildings, which is also used for a variety of seminars and workshops. The second building there serves as home of the Off Broadway Gallery, a venue that provides members with an opportunity to display and sell their artworks.

“It looks like the building was added on to, but I think these are its original bricks,” says Duane King, president of the Southside Art League. “Some of the bricks are missing, and others are badly deteriorated. Some are cracked, and there’s a lot of grout that needs to be replaced.”

King targeted the Whitehill Foundation with a grant application last spring because of its reputation for supporting charitable organizations that focus on promoting and preserving the arts and humanities. Southside Art League representatives learned of their successful bid last October.

“The grant should take care of most of the structural work, but we’ll probably have to put some more money in ourselves,” King says. “We can always use membership and donation money that has come in over the years, and if we still need more, we’ll do a fundraising campaign.”

Preservation of the facility is especially meaningful to professional artist Bev Mathis, who has been teaching at the Southside Art League since 1996. “There is nothing else like this place on the south side,” she says. “We’ve worked really hard to make it a place where people want to go. I teach watercolor painting, and I spend a lot of time there. My husband would probably say it’s my second home.” Fine art classes in oil, pastel and acrylic painting are also offered.

King appreciates the Southside Art League for what it means to Greenwood and the surrounding communities. “People can take classes here and enjoy themselves. Artists can teach, display their works and socialize. This is a historic building near historic downtown Greenwood, and this grant will help us take care of it,” he says.