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  1. Visual Arts

New arts council home offers more space for variety of offerings

NEW PORT RICHEY — An "art space" is what board member Jo Baughman calls the Pasco Fine Arts Council's new home.

Boasting more than 6,000 square feet of space, the new council facilities, at the former Grove Park Community Center, 4145 Fairford Drive, New Port Richey, include four interconnected buildings, green spaces and walkways. Administrators say they have 1,000 more square feet than the previous headquarters in Holiday offered, plus improved lighting and ventilation.

"Grove Park will now be a park with an art theme," said Baughman, an arts council teacher and board member who also oversees daily operations at the council. "And the partnership that brought this move about makes the council a community center."

Established in 1978 at 5744 Moog Road in Holiday, the arts council began with the mission of "creating and preserving cultural opportunities in the arts for all members of our community."

The mission became more challenging in later years, as administrators say the aging building eventually needed major renovations. And council organizers say that they needed more space for their activities, which include art classes, exhibits, receptions and workshops. When their lease ended this year, they searched for new headquarters.

Baughman credits Pasco County parks representatives with offering the council a new lease at the former Grove Park Community Center.

"This is a project of the county, the parks department, the arts council and all the volunteers who help out at the council," said Baughman, a watercolor teacher who comes from a family of artists and who previously taught high school art.

It was a volunteer team that came out in the pouring rain a few weeks ago to help move the arts council into its new facilities, where the transformation from community center has begun.

The council's 3,500-square-foot main building features a gallery and reception area as well as a gift shop featuring the work of local artists. Adjoining rooms will be used as art studios, classrooms and exhibit space.

Adjoining buildings and green spaces include a pottery building, a sculpture garden, storage areas, public rest rooms and children's art and play areas.

"There are so many possibilities," said Bob Langford, chairman of the arts council board.

Posted above the council's new reception desk is an elaborate watercolor rendering of the building, one painted by an arts council teacher and board member who was once a student at the center.

Back in 2001, Suzanne Natzke found that her interest in watercolor painting flourished beneath the tutelage of Baughman.

"I loved how all the colors ran together and blended," Natzke said. "And I loved learning at the arts council. I walked in and got a good feeling. Jo was wonderful, and there was no pressure."

Now Natzke is an award-winning artist who shows her art, teaches at the council and handles public relations duties. After painting everything from nature scenes to sports figures, her latest subject is the council building, which, in her view, will open up "so many options."

"As a teacher I can see that we have more studio and workshop space," she said. "We also have a new website where people register and pay online for classes."

Peachie Lawrence agrees. A retiree who has discovered a second calling as a painter of art and furniture, she also loves the new building, where she can teach and present her art.

"We're all so excited," she said.

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