Sue Ross Arts Center opens with familiar exhibit

The Kirksville Arts Association moved into its new building, the Sue Ross Arts Center, June 16. The new building stands a block away from the previous arts center, which burned down Dec. 2, 2016.

After more than a year of construction, the Kirksville Arts Association moved into the nearly-completed Sue Ross Arts Center building on June 16. 

The center is currently displaying the “Hands of Friendship Quilt Guild Showcase,” the same exhibit that was being displayed in the former Kirksville Arts building when it burned down Dec. 2, 2016. Most of the quilts in the exhibit were produced after the fire, but a few of the quilts that survived the fire, or were reconstructed after, also hang in the new building’s Ellebracht Gallery. 

Because of concerns regarding COVID-19, the Kirksville Arts Association was unable to hold a grand opening, ribbon-cutting ceremony or reception to celebrate the new building.

“We certainly didn’t want to do anything unless our donors could be present,” Linda Treasure, Kirksville Arts Association president, said. 

Treasure expressed that, despite not being able to have a large, celebratory event, seeing the building project come to completion has been satisfying. 

The building and its current exhibit have already had multiple visitors, Treasure said, and the center is encouraging visitors to wear masks and practice social distancing of at least six feet.

“Prior to the fire, not a lot of people paid attention to what we were doing and because of the fire — and we’ve used social media a lot — our membership has grown, people are more interested in what we’re doing [and] we’ve had more visitors to the gallery,” Treasure explained.

The building boasts two galleries, — the Ellebracht Gallery on the first floor and the Gaber Gallery on the lofted second floor — two conference rooms, a fully-equipped kitchen, an office, public restrooms, and a patio on the north side of the building.

Assistant City Manager Ashley Young said he was able to take a tour of the new facility as part of the building safety and code adherence measures that the city employs. 

“I think it’s beautiful and contributes greatly to our community,” Young said. 

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The new building sits on the corner of South Franklin Street and Jefferson Street just one block away from the location of the previous arts center. Young said the new location is a key intersection for linking A.T. Still University and Truman State University to downtown Kirksville.  

Many parts of the building pay tribute to major benefactors of the project and supporters of the arts in Kirksville, including Clara Straight and Travis Freeman for whom the conference rooms were named, and Ron and Elsie Gaber, the namesakes of the Gaber Gallery. 

The building itself is named for Sue Ross, who was a founding member of the Kirksville Arts Association as well as an artist, art teacher and collector. She was also involved in the Association’s purchase of its first arts center building in 2005. 

“[Sue Ross] was a very important part of advocating for the arts in Kirksville for many, many years so we’re really thrilled that the building is named after her,” Treasure said.

Treasure added that, in addition to showcasing local artists’ work, the building will be available in the future to rent for events or workshops. She explained that the main purpose, though, is to expose the local community to the arts and to be a facility for community members to visit. 

One of the first events to be held within the new facility will be the Red Barn Artist Series. This event will replace the Red Barn Arts and Crafts Festival, which is traditionally observed on the Kirksville Square each September. 

“Since we had to cancel Red Barn … we’ve selected various artists from different mediums to come and give a presentation,” Treasure explained. “Aug. 31, we’ll have our first one with John and Andrea O’Brien.”

John and Andrea O’Brien are local artists who will talk about their specialities in woodworking and quilting, respectively. People can tune into their talks via Zoom or in person, Treasure said. After artists’ presentations, their work will be displayed in the Sue Ross Arts Center for a couple of weeks and available for purchase. 

Then, in late November and early December, Treasure said the Association will host the Red Barn Holiday Market in which other local Red Barn vendors will be invited to display their work for people to purchase. 

“For some of those artists, what they would do at Red Barn was a supplement to their income, but for some people that is their entire income, so we are trying to provide some sales opportunities to folks and we’ll see how that goes,” Treasure said.

Tour through the Sue Ross Arts Center with the gallery below. For more information, click on the photos.

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