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Artists working to restore landmark for new art venue

Published: Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
(Curtis Clegg - cclegg@shawmedia.com)
Georgia "Geo" Alderson stands with some of her artwork in The Ballroom in the former Knights of Columbus building in downtown DeKalb. A fundraiser on Saturday will help Alderson and artist Andrew "Webby" Vanko renovate the ballroom to create a venue for artists and musicians to buy, sell and make art.
(Curtis Clegg - cclegg@shawmedia.com)
A fundraiser will help two artists renovate the ballroom in DeKalb's historical Knights of Columbus building.

Two local artists are planning a fundraiser to restore space in a historic building and create a location for artists and musicians to buy, sell and make art.

“I think it could be a great art space and a great venue space,” Georgia “Geo” Alderson said about the second-floor ballroom in the Knights of Columbus building at 134 1/2 Lincoln Highway in downtown DeKalb. “It has six chandeliers, hardwood floors, and 15-foot ceilings.”

Alderson and fellow artist Andrew “Webby” Vanko have been working hard to clean and make repairs to the ballroom as their time and budgets allow. However, the space still needs extensive work to make a presentable art space. Alderson said it needs a new ceiling, as well as electrical and plumbing work.

The Knights of Columbus built the building in about 1920. A March 1918 article in the Daily Chronicle about the proposed construction said the building was intended to house retail space on the first floor and DeKalb City Council chambers on the third floor.

Janet Fawcett of DeKalb remembers attending teen dances in the ballroom in the 1960s.

“Even then it felt old, but we didn’t care,” Fawcett said. “It was a big open room with the bands at one end. There were offices in front (facing Lincoln Highway) and you had to walk up the stairs and down a long hall to get there.”

The fundraiser will begin at 8 p.m. Saturday at the building. Local band The Charred Oak Barrel Boys will play at the event, and there will be baked goods and art for sale. Refreshments will be available. Space is available for artists to display and sell their work with a 15 percent commission.

When renovations are complete, the ballroom will be available to rent for $40 per day to photographers and other artists who need a large space to work.

“It’s a great space and I am glad they are taking it to the next level,” building owner Sandy Gavin said. 

For more information, find The Ballroom on Facebook or call Vanko at 815-793-6208.

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