A group of Boneyfiddle Artists outside of their shop at the first Final Friday event held last year, where they showcased their work on the street.
By Joseph Pratt
For nearly five years, the community has fostered art and creative process through a collection of local artists with the Boneyfiddle Arts Center (BAC). The future of the artists and their community outreach organization has been troubled lately and direction unknown to the public, but the BAC Board has announced the dissipation of the entity and the closure of the center.
BAC operated as a 501(c)3 dedicated to giving local artists a space of their own, while educating the community on the arts of all forms. Its space was often used for free workshops, where students visited to learn water coloring and other traditional artistic outlets. They were also host to public exhibitions for others, such as schools, adults with developmental disabilities, other nonprofit organizations, and more.
The organization temporarily closed its doors in January after a long stint at its Second Street location. The group listed many reasons for leaving the space, from falling fixtures on the exterior of the building to issues with heating and cooling. The many artists left with hope of moving into another, more secured, space.
They had hoped for a future in the Daehler Building of the same street, one block east. The possibility of the location being remolded in time quickly became vague, as the owners began to have differences on the direction of the project, so the organization began to look elsewhere.
Officials with BAC claimed they looked at dozens of buildings in downtown Portsmouth, but couldn’t find anything that would work. Issues constantly arose concerning spacial limitations, affordability, and structural integrity.
Executive Director Jamie Benedict said that the board and the artists all agreed that they had no desire to look elsewhere for a space and wanted to remain in downtown Portsmouth or not at all.
New Boston Council even approached the group and offered to help them get into a New Boston strip mall, where Kmart currently sits, but the artists agreed the location was not where their heart was.
The decision to close was a herculean one, and Benedict says that the artists and board waited to officially begin the close to see if there was any chance at remaining opened. The reality of the situation set in when two major factors failed, and the organization folded.
Benedict said that the organization had been working on two movements to ensure the longevity of the art center, a paid position in managing the organization and securing a space that was affordable and had opportunity for growth.
Losing its location meant that the group lost funding opportunities and had to back out of grants and withdraw current applications. Benedict said that the downtime had also caused the group to lose volunteers and other needed aspects of running the organization. Benedict felt that the longer the wait, the more loss the board and artists would accrue.
“It is really sad and painful for us, because we worked so hard to accomplish what we had,” Benedict said. “When we realized we could not meet our strategic goals we knew it was the logical choice. By closing, we were able to keep our integrity intact and honor what our mission was, instead of struggling into nonexistence. We just hope we spark visual arts enthusiasts and it art will only grow in our community.”
Benedict did happily say that the group’s accomplishments live on today, through its proud legacy and shortly lived, but positive, existence, as well as the dissolution of property to area artistic 501(c)3 organizations and schools.
All of the group’s supplies were delivered to April Deacon and Portsmouth High School, property went to the Portsmouth Area Arts Council, technology went to the Scioto Foundation, and other organizations received financial support, such as the Southern Ohio Museum and Cultural Center, Cirque d’art Theatre, and the South Central Ohio Educational Service Center’s Gifted Services.
“I feel like Boneyfiddle Art Center was a very positive energy in the downtown area, especially with all of the overwhelming positive feedback that we had. I know that the majority of community members were proud of it and brought many people to visit. I think we created a positive energy and we brought a lot of life to the area that created a ripple effect in creating more and generating community rejuvenation. We are proud of all we managed to accomplished.”
Benedict said that after facing the closure of the Boneyfiddle Artists, she will not be seeking to revive anything in its like, but hopes the ripples created by BAC continue to grow and raise art awareness, causing someone to do something in their place.
Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.