Coastal Art Center of Orange Beach adding facility

BY JOHN MULLEN jmullen@gulfcoastnewspapers.com
Posted 8/8/13

ORANGE BEACH — The smile is absolutely irrepressible as resident clay artist Abby Leach pondered the possibilities of a new studio being built on the campus of the Coastal Art Center of Orange Beach.

The old shop, one of the former cabins …

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Coastal Art Center of Orange Beach adding facility

Posted

ORANGE BEACH — The smile is absolutely irrepressible as resident clay artist Abby Leach pondered the possibilities of a new studio being built on the campus of the Coastal Art Center of Orange Beach.

The old shop, one of the former cabins accompanying the former hotel, was beyond repair after years of weathering the intense heat of the glass-blowing Hot Shop. That facility moved into new digs next door nearly a year ago.

Now Leach is giddy with prospects of another new facility to house her supplies, display her work and serve as a classroom for her medium.

“I am very excited,” Leach said. “I met with Tim (Tucker) this morning to talk about the outside porch and talked about getting our wood-fired kiln in there that we are going to build.

“Hopefully that will bring a lot of people in. That’s a real crowd-pleaser type of thing. It fires for six to eight hours so it’s a full-day thing, raising temperatures every hour. It gets up to 2,500 degrees or so. It’s roaring.”

When Leach came on as the clay artist in residence, she had heard talk of a new clay studio being a part of the master plan.

“They had talked about it in the beginning but I just thought it was something that sat in the back of their heads that was something that was never going to happen,” she said. “Then we got the grant and a big part in the grant was a new clay shop.”

The grant was $500,000 from BP received by the Friends of the Arts through the tourism and seafood promotion awarded by BP as part of a proposed settlement following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

It called for improvements to the Clay Studio to the tune of $79,500, but after looking at the building after the Hot Shop was moved, it was declared unfit.

“It’s in such bad shape, the block wall has cracked and is crumbling and we’d just be throwing good money after bad to try and rehab it,” Mayor Tony Kennon said in August of 2012. “We’re just going to take it down and start from scratch.”

Leach said she was able to make do with the space and facility she previously had.

“I did everything I could to get it ready and make it work,” she said. “It did what it was supposed to, but now I’m ready to move on up a little bit. Make it more functional for me on the inside.”

Not only will there be the extra room, but extra work areas for Leach to work and teach in as well.

“I have a glazing area on the inside,” she said. “I’ve got about 27 glazes right now but I’m going to have spaces where the five-gallon buckets sit along the walls so they’re not just shoved into a corner.

“I’ll have a spray booth where you put your pieces in – it’ll be in the glazing area – it’s like a little turntable and you spray your pieces evenly. It’s a closed in kind of three-sided box. We’ll have nice big working tables and there will be a display area, too. I can put some finished pieces out that people can see.”

The architecture will allow for lots of windows and an open feel inside the shop. It will also contain an office area that resident glass artist Adam Burges and Leach will share.

“The structure’s floor plan will have windows on the back and the front facing east and west so it will actually capture some sun,” City Administrator Ken Grimes said.” We’ve changed the roofline to do this. We’ll have four French doors instead of the big metal rollup doors.”

One of the first steps to be completed will be installation of a grinder pump to support the two public bathrooms that will be included in the Clay Studio.

“We’ll be working on the infrastructure once we demolish the building to kind of begin the process of putting our first grinder pump there,” Grimes said. “We’ll have access to the storm drain in the back to try and divert the water and make plans for storm water runoff. With all these roof lines they are kind of designed to funnel the water.”

The additional bathrooms are definitely needed on the campus, Leach said. The only two now are in the main building.

“Right now we only have two bathrooms and they are in here,” she said. “During the festival everybody wants to come in here and use the bathrooms and we’d tell them about the public bathrooms over there at Waterfront Park, but nobody wants to walk over there for the most part.”