The building that first was home to the Adams Memorial Unitarian Church is now for sale. It’s been gracing the corner of Central Avenue and Sixth Street in the city of Dunkirk for more than 100 years and now it needs some help.
The current owners, Access to the Arts Inc. have put the building, now known as Adams Art Gallery, up for sale. Access to the Arts purchased the building in 2005 from the Lakeshore Association for the Arts Inc., which took ownership from the church in 1978.
Christopher Schaeffer is the current president of Access to the Arts, which held its last event in the building in 2013, was asked why the building is for sale.
“We just can’t afford it anymore. We don’t have enough money coming in from donations and there’s not enough money available in grants. Grant money is pretty much for programming, not for infrastructure, so it’s really tough to get money to replace the roof and do the plumbing, upgrade everything, that’s required,” he replied. “There’s just not enough cash, so the building is more of a liability for us at this point. We’re looking to sell the building so we can use the money to finance our mission, so we can continue to provide arts education to the community.”
The most immediate need for the building is a new roof, along with plumbing needs.
“Last summer as a final effort to stabilize the building we attempted a Kickstarter fundraising drive to repair the roof. Of the $88,000 we needed to repair the roof, we received pledges totaling $315,” Schaeffer said.
“More than 3,000 people knew of the fundraising drive on Facebook alone, many more through direct emails and personal outreach.”
The harsh winter took a toll inside the building as well.
“A lot of the plumbing didn’t make it through the winter. We had some burst pipes and burst radiators in the parsonage, the apartment building,” Schaeffer explained. “The plumbing upgrades need to be done. The main sewer line, which runs from the back of the building to Central Avenue, is more than 100 years old and may be in need of repair or replacement. The basement wall, the foundation seems to be pushing in and is pushing up parts of the floor.”
Add in new windows and repointing, the cost to stabilize the building could reach $400,000, according to Schaeffer.
“If I had half a million dollars I wouldn’t be selling it,” he stated, adding there have been talks with other organizations to save the building. “Selling is not our first option. It’s not what we wanted, but at this point it’s probably our best option. So if we can work something out with another organization that has deeper pockets than us, that would be our first option; or have somebody else run it as an art gallery. Short of that, whatever it takes to not have the building torn down for a parking lot.
“It’s a beautiful building, gorgeous floors and just an amazing amount of space in there. If somebody had the money to renovate it, I think it would be really good for them and really good for the community.”
The all-volunteer organization has the same problem other ones do, a lack of help – and money.
“Over the years we’ve been running it we’ve had people come up with all these great ideas, telling us how we should run things there, but there just wasn’t a lot of people that wanted to step up and help. A lot of ideas, but people said they were too busy. Anybody involved in a non-profit knows that,” Schaeffer stated. “When the Art Gallery started there were a few people involved who had deep pockets but that was 30 years ago and that money has dried up. I would love to keep something in Dunkirk.
“The company is not going out of business. We’re not filing bankruptcy or anything like that. We still plan to work with the local schools. We’d like to continue the Urbscheit show, which is the high school art show, where all the students in the county are invited to show their art work. We’d like to work with schools and come into the schools and maybe have some other things to build art education in the community, but the building is a bit of a drag for us. It’s too expensive to maintain. Our monthly utilities takes our whole budget, we’re not really accomplishing our mission if we’re spending all our money on maintenance and actually not giving anything back to the community. We’re hoping with the sale of the building it will give us a little bit of cash to continue what we’re supposed to be doing.”
According to a I LoveNY website, the building has 22-foot ceilings, a fusing of natural and track lighting and its classical interior reflect its origin as a church and form a spaciousness especially well-suited to the display of contemporary art works.
Hunt Real Estate is handling the sale of the property.
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