Two years after the city gave the Gulfport Arts Center its blessing to take up residence in the old Gulfport Shuffleboard Club, things are finally starting to come together.
It's thanks in large part to the center's new partner, City of Imagination Inc.
The two arts groups merged last year in a mutually beneficial alliance: The center got some arts veterans in its corner, and City of Imagination was able to get its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.
City of Imagination was formed in 2000 "to bring a wide range of the arts to Gulfport and to present in varied types of venues to allow the public and artists to experience creativity as a part of daily life," according to its mission statement.
However, it lacked a headquarters building and, therefore, the educational aspect — classes, workshops and speakers — needed to get nonprofit status so it could be exempt from federal income taxes, receive foundation grants and accept tax-deductible donations.
"The last two years have been a time of merging, legal business and paperwork," said David Bewley, vice president and artistic consultant. "Now it's time to start having classes and exhibits here on a regular basis."
City of Imagination president Marlene Shaw led Bewley and other volunteers in the continuing rehab of the 900-square-foot building on 54th Street S on Saturday.
The building has been cleaned out and painted. It had been used as city storage. An acoustic ceiling, track lighting, and art strips for hanging paintings and drawings were installed.
Now workers are ripping up old linoleum so it can be replaced.
Shaw said the center will give new and established artists a place to display work. She said an artist will have an opening reception, and then his or her work will be on display during Gulfport Artwalks, the first Friday and third Saturday of every month. Artists will rotate in and out.
The building also will be available for rent for a nominal fee — perhaps $10 — to other nonprofit groups.
"We're not looking to be a commercial space," Shaw said. "We are just looking to be a space where people can meet, like for green events."