Friday, August 08, 2008

From the Local Press

Kid’s art breathes new life into Glouster storefronts
The Athens Messenger, August 5, 2008
Athens Messenger staff writer
GLOUSTER — For years, storefronts have stood empty in Glouster, shells that for older residents still evoke memories of when the village was a boomtown. But now, thanks to the Youth Act Project, the art and creativity of children are brightening those vacant windows.

Sponsored by Rural Action, the Youth Act Project works with children in Trimble Twp. to create art for storefront windows. So far, two window displays have been filled with art at 85 and 87 High Street in downtown Glouster, just across from Little Italy Pizza, and there are plans for others.

Christine Far, a youth leader through Rural Action, teamed up with children in the Glouster Communi ty Church summer camp, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Girl Power Club through Athens County Children Services and the Watershed Day Camp. She began consulting with Trimble Twp. youngsters with the intention of guiding a lead ership project that would instill pride in the community. The children told her they wanted to make the downtown area more beautiful. Knowing of the abandoned historic storefronts in Glouster, Far decided to use the children’s art work to brighten those areas. “They are beautifying their community,” Far said. “You see these abandoned buildings come alive with art, and that is creating a sense of pride. There is talent among the youth of Trimble Twp., and they deserve an outlet for their creativity.”

People who have lived in Glouster long enough remember when
those shops were filled.

“Glouster used to look a lot like Athens without the university element,” said Ray Webster, who grew up in Trimble and owns one of the building storefronts with windows that have been turned into an art gallery. “All those stores used to be filled. Glouster used to be a happening place.”

Webster remembers a downtown bowling alley, booming restaurants lining the street, a hotel on the corner. Glouster once boasted three furniture stores, three hardware stores and several small, independent grocery stores. Webster remembers the Rich Loaf Bakery, an automobile dealership and several soda fountain shops. In the 195 0s, Glouster was a whole other world from what it is now, Webster remembered.

But Glouster is not a unique situation in America, Webster remarked. Webster spent 20 years in the service and witnessed small towns like Glouster that d ried up because of other economic changes, like new high ways that skirted around the small towns and drove people away, drying up the communities.

“I’ve seen it happen in a lot of areas, not just Glouster,” Webster said. “It’s just sad to look at what it’s become. Some of the older people remember what a great place this town once was. It was a place where you could depend on your neighbors. Now the town is riddled with drugs, people hanging on the street corners with nothing to do. It breaks your heart.”

But sadness can be alleviated. The brickwork in front of the storefront Webster owns reads “Luck Off’s,” and was an upholstery furniture store unt
il a leaky roof ruined it with mold. Now, in one window, a beautifully colored painted chair and bed-stand table is offset by plates and bowls that have been covered in a collage of paper-maché.

Another window features images of brightly painted fish swimming on the walls. Another window is filled with painted pottery, etched with the imagination of children.

“I really applaud what those kids are doing,” Webster said. “If we had more pride in this community, more ideas like this, it could really rub off on people and change things.”

This Sunday will feature an art opening celebration between 11 a.m to 1 p.m. Far will clean up a garden area that sits between two stores nearby the win
dows, and lemonade will be served.

“These old buildings are coming alive again,” Far said. “This is something the community can really be proud of.”

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