Uniontown Creativity CenterUniontown, WA
Uniontown Creativity Center
To begin this blog thread, I will give a brief history. Uniontown, in rural southeast Washington State which has 350 residents, is the geographical center to four larger cities with a combined population of approximately 120,000. A state highway runs through Uniontown which is the south entry to the Palouse Scenic Byway. In 2004, a dilapidated dairy barn that had sat vacant for 50 years was donated to the Uniontown community with the stipulation that the structure be rehabilitated and put to a community use and the iconic fence of 1000 iron wheels that surrounded it be preserved. As a tribute to donors Steve and Junette Dahmen, the folk artist who built the fence and his fine artist wife, and in acknowledgement of the abundance of artists in the region who had no outlet for their work, a creativity center modeled after the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria VA was planned. With thousands of volunteer hours from community members who worked alongside a contractor, the barn was transformed into a state-of-the-art creativity center, funded entirely through grants and private donations. Named after the donors, Artisans at the Dahmen Barn was opened October 2006. Today the facility has 23 artists working out of 10 studios, an exhibit space and a retail shop that has the work of more than 125 local artists and craftspeople represented. Live music events are held as well as creativity workshops for children and adults.
By 2010 we were bursting at the seams and began thinking about expansion of the facility and improvements to the site which includes a hillside that lent itself to an amphitheater for outdoor music performances. In 2011 we received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts that funded architectural and landscape design services and also public art to be placed on the state highway at the north and south entries to Uniontown. The approach to facility enlargement at that time was a phased expansion plan so that work could be done over time as funding was obtained.
The public art pieces are underway and will be installed this summer. Thanks to the ArtPlace award, the expansion will now be one larger project, which will be more economical and give more design choices than the originally planned phased approach.
Uniontown is blessed with volunteers willing to take on challenging projects to improve the community and with a very competent grant writer. They are committed to make Uniontown a hub for creativity in south eastern Washington.