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Group will sell gallery



Published: Wed, September 4, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The guild had been in the Gillmer House for 35 years.

By STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- A nonprofit group that has been showing the work of local and emerging artists since 1957 has put its historical Mahoning Avenue gallery up for sale. The last art classes were held at Trumbull Art Gallery this summer, said Bill Mullane, board member and former director. The Trumbull Art Guild, which operated the gallery, will continue but without a home of its own for now.

"It will be a reduced role for us but one that will be of service to the community," Mullane said.

The organization has been without a director since Jennifer Breck-ner left several weeks ago. In the future, it may hold exhibitions in unused storefronts, businesses or schools and will continue offering art classes to inmates and Alzheimer's patients, he said. It may also team up with other organizations offering arts classes, he said.

Others shut down

The guild is the latest in a string of local art groups and festivals that have been shut down or nearly shut down because of financial trouble.

The list includes Great Lakes Ballet, Opening Night, Noon in the Park, Celebration in the Square ballet performances and the Fine Arts Council of Trumbull County.

"It doesn't bode well," said Bobbie Brown, director of the fine-arts council. "Every time you lose something as visible as a gallery space, that hurts the artistic community as a whole."

Since 1969, the guild has occupied the Gillmer House, among the oldest in the area.

The 1854 Victorian mansion had the first electric lights, plate glass windows and indoor plumbing in Warren and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In recent years, as much has 80 percent of the gallery's budget has gone toward upkeep at the house, which Mullane said needs about $350,000 worth of work to restore.

It needs work on the foundations, floors and roof.

"We came to the conclusion that we didn't have the financial well-being anymore to do what needs to be done with the house," Mullane said. "It is definitely a fixer-upper," he said.

The asking price is $79,000.

The Trumbull Art Guild is experiencing the same shrinking of support that has troubled other local institutions. The economy and layoffs at local companies have an impact on donations from individuals, and stock market declines have hit charitable foundations hard, reducing their ability to give, said FACT's Brown.

Ohio Arts Council grants have been one casualty of the state's budget crunch. The state agency's annual grant to Trumbull Art Guild is down to $3,500 a year, from $13,000 to $17,000 a year in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Mullane said.

The Trumbull Art Guild will close its gallery and classrooms in a city that has many more of these things than it did when the guild began 45 years ago, he said. There are more public libraries, which also offer artistic events; the Butler Institute of American Art has opened a Trumbull County branch; and YMCAs, YWCAs, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts offer art classes, he said.

"As an organization, you always have to rethink your mission and rethink the role you have in relation to community needs," he said. "I don't think we are going away."




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