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Art Association, Players Fighting To Keep Facility Open

OSWEGO, NY – There is plenty going on at Building 30 in Fort Ontario Park.

The entranceway concrete is cracked so badly, you can see the ground several feet below.
The entranceway concrete is cracked so badly, you can see the ground several feet below.

The Art Association of Oswego has some upcoming shows and other events. Their co-tenants, the Oswego Players, are staging “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

Both groups would like to see more activity outside as well.

The building that houses the two arts organizations is in need of much repair.

“Even if we had the money, most of the repairs would likely not take place until around winter because of all the shows we have going on this fall,” said Peter Mahan of the Art Association of Oswego. “We need to find a time to do the work when it is advantageous for all parties.”

The city is looking at repair the concrete entranceway; there are large cracks in some sections where you can see down to the ground several feet below. At one end, the metal railing is falling off.

In some places, the old building just needs a fresh coat of paint.

Other areas are more cause for concern. The flashing and sections of the slate roof are in disrepair. There are also holes rotted into the boards covering many of the windows. And, squirrels have gotten into the theater through a hole in the wall on the side of the facility.

“Scrapping and painting probably won’t be enough for the windows,” Mahan noted. “We’ll have to get new plywood and recover them. There are more than a dozen we have to fix.”

Because it is an historic building, it should be easier for the city to get grants to help maintain it, he observed.

The covering on many of the windows on the ground level have rotted out.
The covering on many of the windows on the ground level have rotted out.

The building has been an arts center since 1964. With a tighter budget recently, the city is hard pressed to keep up with the maintenance. As part of the lease deal, the city is supposed to keep up the outside of the building.

DPW Commissioner Mike Smith said he has discussed the issue with Second Ward Councilor Mike Myers.

“We haven’t made any formal plans about what to do over there this season,” he said. “There are several buildings down there that need some tender loving care. We’ll see what we can work out them.”

Finding enough funding for everything could be a problem, he admits.

“It’s a totally unique situation down here because we have a multi-purpose arts center; both performance art and exhibitions for art exhibits on the other side and classroom space as well,” Mahan said. “There is really nothing in Oswego County like this. The only one I’m aware of is down in Cortland, and that one’s just a couple years old.”

They have been doing odd jobs here and there, but hope the city will be able to kick in and help with the major repairs.

The groups shut down for a while over the winter; that saves some on utility bills, but they’re still about $300 per month, Mahan noted.

“Some of the cosmetic stuff could be done this summer. And then we’re looking at, if everything goes well, the city working on the entranceway, the railing and some other areas during the winter,” he said.

A broken out window pane allows squirrels, birds and the elements to get inside the building.
A broken out window pane allows squirrels, birds and the elements to get inside the building.

“The (entranceway) railing was hit by a snowplow. They promised us they would put it back. We have not seen that,” said Inez Parker of the Oswego Players. “We need new doors desperately. We’ll buy them if the city installs them. I know times are tough.”

The city used to pay the utility bills for the facility. Then one day they said they couldn’t do it any more, she said.

“We had money in the bank a few years ago, a goodly amount. But you know how (utility bills) can be; this building is a cave,” she said.

It is also making it tough on the art association, she added.

The city should promote its arts more than it does, she said.

“I’d much rather see a kid tap dancing or learning lines (for a play) than out twittering, drinking or smoking,” she said. “Here it’s safe. We’ve got to keep this building safe, keep it alive. And, that’s what we’re trying to do. But it’s hard; it’s really, really hard. But we’re doing it.”