Fort Mill Times

Town considers aid for the Art Mill

The future of the Art Mill is in the hands of the Fort Mill Town Council.

At Monday night's meeting, Fort Mill Art Guild founder Marcia Buike asked the council to consider giving the Art Mill between $5,000 and $9,000 for help with rent on the Art Mill, which is in a building she rents on lower Main Street.

"I know that is a lot of money to ask [for], but we've achieved a lot of things on Main Street," Buike said. "We've had a lot of events and we want to continue to bring people downtown and to the area."

Buike opened the Art Mill in February with funding assistance from her husband, Jim Buike, and local arts supporter Jim Harper. Weekly events, including art classes, and the open gallery filled with works from local artists, have drawn visitors to the downtown spot.

Although Buike and Fort Mill Art Guild members envision the Art Mill becoming self-sustaining, the money generated from memberships and classes has not been enough to keep it going. Without funding from the town, Buike said the Art Mill will have to close on June 30.

Buike told the council that the Art Mill contributes to the revitalization of downtown Fort Mill and will continue that path in the future - if it can remain open. She discussed plans for "Fourth Friday in Fort Mill," a monthly event beginning May 22 in which people can enjoy events at the Art Mill and visit other downtown merchants.

So far, a handful of downtown merchants, including antique shops, Belle Vive Spa and Wellness Center and Ida Roselle's Restaurant, will stay open late for next Friday's event.

"It's a way to bring people to downtown Fort Mill," Buike said. "It would be nice to get people downtown to eat, go to an event, shop a little. Every fourth Friday...we will get people coming down to see what a charming venue Fort Mill is."

Buike is also pursuing funding for the Art Mill through a fundraiser this Saturday. The "Chair-ity" fundraiser will feature chairs designed and decorated by local artists.

The Art Mill will be open all day Saturday for viewing and voting on the chairs. A silent auction will also be held throughout the day, including items such as original paintings by local artists, a handmade evening bag and gift certificates.

Councilman Ken Starnes said he was concerned about making a quick decision on whether to grant funds to the Art Mill and said the council should discuss it at a workshop meeting scheduled for Saturday morning.

"I would like to see us support the arts, but as you are aware we are living in difficult times and money is tight. I think it's a good idea, but I don't know where we'd get the money," Starnes said.

The council members agreed with Starnes, and planned to discuss it further at the 8 a.m. Saturday workshop.

"I have been involved with Marcia since the beginning and she has been persistent and in a very good way - dogged," said Mayor Danny Funderburk.

"I think what you are doing walks in perfect concert with what we are trying to do downtown, so I am impressed with what you've done at this point."