Sebastian art club to open ‘gallery’ at old city hall

SEBASTIAN – The Sebastian River Art Club will be allowed to open an exhibition gallery at the old city hall complex on Main Street, the Sebastian City Council unanimously decided.

The club had sought extra space to create what it calls a community arts center, a place for art classes and art exhibits.

The potential for sales within the exhibition gallery, though, caused concern among some residents, who questioned the commercial use of public property.

“I have to categorically object to this use,” Sebastian resident Louise Kautenburg told the Sebastian City Council after hearing that the Sebastian River Art Club would be allowed to sell artwork from the gallery.

She told the council that if the city had public space available for retail use, the city should have leased it to a start-up business to help it get established.

Toni Hill, a member of the art club and organizer of the arts center, countered the objections to retail, telling the council that the club’s intent has been interpreted as an art gallery for sales, which is only one small portion of the overall use.

She said that the additional space would allow for members to store their larger pieces while being worked on. The space would also allow for art classes to the public.

“If we could sell art – that would be great,” Hill said, but she added that club members do not sell much.

Each artist is required to have a tax identification number, so any sales would have reported sales tax, Hill added.

Club member Marlene Mayfield reminded the council that corporations looking to move to the area often look at the amenities offered. One such amenity could be the arts center.

“Well, this is one way to show them we are a forward looking community,” Mayfield said.

Though the Sebastian City Council voted 4-0 in support of the Sebastian River Art Club’s request, they did recognize the concerns residents had over the retail use of the space.

“Both sides of the coin have merit,” Councilwoman Andrea Coy said. But, “art is disappearing in all elements of our society.”

She said that having the center would be a benefit to the community. And, as for the potential for sales, Coy added, “I don’t know anyone would get wealthy on this.”

Councilman Don Wright concurred, saying that the club would not be able to sell enough artwork to pay the rent of a commercial space.

Mayor Richard Gillmor, who sits as the president of the Art Club, recused himself from the discussion and vote.

With the favorable vote, the club will be allowed to use the extra space until such time as the Sebastian City Council decides to either rehabilitate or demolish the old city hall complex.

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