MADISONVILLE, Ky. (4/29/13) – The fourth seasonal Downtown Gallery Hop took place over this past weekend in the historical downtown district here in Madisonville. Despite the rainy weather, the Gallery Hop was still deemed a success by business owners and participants and attracted hundreds of strollers from the sidewalks to enjoy the atmosphere and support the arts and local business.
Efforts to revitalize the downtown district in commerce and beautification have been vastly underway for the past five years. There was a surge of similar activity that funneled through Madisonville in the 90’s when the local government began funding building recovery and beautification projects downtown, however it fizzled during the early part of the 2000’s due to economic priority changes.
Jenny Gibson, founder of the Downtown Turnaround Project that started in 2009, and owner of Artcycle Gallery and Big City Coffee Shop at 23 Sugg Street, tentatively opening in June, also spearheaded the twice a year Gallery Hop event downtown. The spring season Hop is usually held on the last Saturday in April and the fall season Hop on the first Saturday in October. This is the first year for rain during any of the Gallery Hop events, and Gibson said she was aware the turnout may not be as good as it has been in the past. She still had several hundred visitors and some purchases made in her store, which opened for showcasing just for this weekend’s Hop, and said in past years she estimated up to 1,000 people had come through. Gibson’s shop featured paintings, sign art, metal sculpture, restored and repurposed furniture, original jewelry, wine tasting, coffee and dessert samples and live music by talented local musician Ray Ligon. Artists and participants were not limited to gallery owners or workers and a significant amount of the art featured in all of the galleries was submitted by artists.
Former Chamber President Harriett Whitaker also played a fundamental role in organizing this spring’s Gallery Hop. Whitaker retired from the Chamber this past February, but stayed very active in her involvement with the event. In agreement with Gibson that the collective support of arts and entertainment and beautification of the sidewalks and streets will improve economic development in commerce here, Whitaker said, “The Gallery Hop is proof that art can spur economic development. People come out to shop, support local artists and restaurants, everyone has a great time.”
There were at least twelve other gallery owners, businesses and restaurants participating downtown, other than Gibson, including the Chamber of Commerce, that turned itself into a make-shift gallery of art for participants to submit work, which featured wood carvings, wood turnings, paintings, sculpture, pottery and wine tasting. The Hopkins County Art League, located at the Old Train Depot, displayed two floors of art in various mediums. Brother’s BBQ catered on site at the Arch St. location outside the Train Depot.
Several other gallery and business owners opened their doors for the four hour event to host passersby on Main Street Black Dog Fiber Studio at 11 N. Main Street, owned by local community member Maria Lee, opened to feature her original textiles and handmade soaps by Kim Hardesty of Bicycle Botanicals.
Barbie Hunt Studio, with hand-painted silks, pottery, painting and collage by Barbie Hunt, showcased merchandise at the 37 S. Main St. studio. Thomas Antiques, at 51 S. Main St. featured antiques and vintage items ready for repurposing and Amanda’s on Main, at 117 S. Main St. displayed unique house wares and repurposed furniture, handmade soaps, candles, and pillows by Poppy & Clover.
Five downtown restaurants participated in the Gallery Hop and featured specials to promote the event. #9 Steakhouse at 1002 N. Main St. sold half price bottles of wine to Gallery Hop guests. The promotion downtown in the clustered area between Main St. and Center St. was strong in participation as well.
DiFabio’s Casapela, located at 17 W. Center St. gave free cheesy bread or half price off select bottles of wine upon presentation of Gallery Hop program. Located directly next door to DiFabio’s at 11 W. Center St., Blackwell’s Bar and Grill promoted all-you-can-eat catfish and pizza and wing deals. The Crowded House across W. Center at 26 W. Center St. hosted live music by Shane Amar, served their always popular specialty beers and surf and turf dinner deals. A Classic favorite in Madisonville, Ferrell’s Snappy Service, located at 112 N. Main St., gave coupons to Gallery Hop guests good for a free cheeseburger or hamburger.
Gibson continued in speaking with reporters from SurfKY News, to show her enthusiasm and optimism about the turnaround in Madisonville, highlighting all of the projects incorporated in the Downtown Turnaround project efforts, as well as sharing her hope that events like the Gallery Hop will bring new business and active community involvement, not just downtown but all over Madisonville. “We need to be focused on the ‘Better’ philosophy; better quality, better service, better things. Every time we do this, it enforces community consciousness that in this community there are unique, talented and creative people right here. It reinforces that big city feel, while still keeping true to that quaint vibe that the old Madisonville district is. Our downtown can be anything we want it to be. It can be a drag or an asset, and it’s our choice. We’ve come so far in the efforts in beautification, but it’s not just about that. We really want to aim our focus at the business too because without a thriving business, it’s just a pretty place to look at. We want it to be active. A lot of the zoning amendments have changed in Madisonville so it’s more accommodating to have business owners living in the buildings they’re working in. That’s a good thing for entrepreneurs interested in buying into business here and we want to encourage success with that. We’re trying to encourage retail and other businesses to open and get the downtown district going after business hours in the evenings. I’d like to see broader support on an organizational level. The more people who participate, the more it helps the community commerce.”
You may also reach the Madisonville-Hopkins Co. Chamber of Commerce for business and/or community event information by logging on HERE or call (270) 821-3435.
Photos provided by Amber Mena
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