On the upcoming one-year anniversary of the fire, the Kirksville Arts Association will host a Capital Campaign Kickoff dinner including a reveal of its new building design.
The fire, while destroying the association’s main downtown building, hasn’t ended the association’s links to the community.
“It took us about two weeks [after the fire] to get up and running again,” says Art Association Director Judy Neuweg.
Neuweg says she saw no other option but to continue forward. After receiving a grant from the state branch of arts, the Missouri Art Council, Neuweg felt a sense of urgency not to waste its contribution.
“We had to fulfill our obligation to them,” says Neuweg. “We still have our exhibits, we still have our exhibit receptions and we have our workshops.”
Neuweg says she was impressed with the way the association persevered, thanks to an effort by the entire group of 14 board members.
“Just keeping the whole organization up and running was a combination of everybody on the board,” says Neuweg. “They really helped out with things like exhibits and getting them planned, sometimes several months out.”
Local Community Gives a Helping Hand for the Arts
Hard work from inside the association was met with support from the community. Local arts supporters even provided the association with a temporary location at 1902 S. Baltimore St., Suite 100.
“Our long-time supporters of the association let us have this location as a new art gallery,” says Neuweg. “They did that immediately.”
Heidi Templeton, Truman State University Public Relations Director, was unsurprised by this loyalty. Templeton says the brand of the Arts Association is one so next to the hearts of Kirksville residents.
“They found out soon after the fire that people were so supportive and just emailing them, calling ‘what can we do, how do we help you in the future’,” says Templeton. “They’re starting with this incredible product and people were really, just so sad.”
Templeton says she’s seen the impact the association has had on Truman and saw that no fire could stop it from marching on. Truman and the association plan to continue to host events together such as Truman’s family day at the same time as the association’s annual Red Barn Art’s and Crafts Festival.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how they just continued right on providing programming and helping the community,” says Templeton. “They are very good to call us and say ‘hey, when is family day’ because we want to make sure to have Red Barn at the same time. It’s a win-win situation.”
This art presence was felt outside of the Truman campus in the city itself. City Planner Chayton True has seen how the town as a whole continued to be helped by the local arts group.
“I think that it’s great that they’re still able to have the influence they do with the limited amount of resource,” says True. “Still able to do Red Barn, Summer on the Square every Friday night during the summer. I really think they’ve made a difference.”
Returning to Original Downtown Plot Major Priority for the Arts Center
While the achievements are impressive, True says the city is longing for the come back of the Arts Association to the downtown area.
“The arts center brings people downtown, which is good for business,” says True. “It increases pedestrian activity which makes it more active.”
Eric Wang, Truman junior and art enthusiast, says the location downtown is important to him as someone who had art submissions in the center during the fire and as a native of Kirksville.
“Downtown is the heart of the city, having something there that’s important is symbolic for the people that live here,” says Wang. “I can walk there and I can engage in it.”
The association’s return to downtown is guaranteed after the Kirksville city council confirmed the location in early October, constructing the new building in the same plot where it once stood a year ago.