Photo by Madoline Markham.
1012 Artists on the Bluff
Rik Lazenby and Linda Williams stand in front of the Artists on the Bluff building.
Eighty-three years ago, a two-room schoolhouse was built in Bluff Park. The building would grow as a school and later serve as a community education build- ing. But a year and half ago, Bluff Park Community School on Park Avenue was in disrepair. Its roof was sagging, and many classrooms were filled with junk. The building, beloved by the community, almost closed.
But now new life has come. Linda Williams, a recently retired community education director for Hoover City Schools, turned the facility into a community of artists with teaching spaces. Artists on the Bluff will hold its grand opening event this month.
Williams, a 40-year Bluff Park resident, knew firsthand how the area loved the building and valued the arts. The fit for an arts center was natural.
“We have an edge,” Williams said. “We have a community that is family. There is really nothing like this in the city.”
Rik Lazenby, another retired educator and longtime friend of Williams, moved his decorative arts studio to the Bluff Park building in the summer of 2011 and soon stepped in as its director. Both of them told
artists they knew about the space, and the word spread fast. There wasn’t an artist who looked at the space who didn’t take a studio.
Currently, there is a waiting list for the 20 studio spaces. The entire building is budding with artistry: photography, theatre, ceramics, painting, jewelry mak- ing, woodworking, landscaping, even the Hoover Historical Society—and teaching of these art forms.
Artists pay a modest rate for rent that includes utilities but have access to the fa- cility at any hour. The space is their own, as splattered paint on floors and inspira- tion boards on walls attest.
From the beginning, the committee be- hind Artists on the Bluff, which includes Williams, Lazenby, Dr. Ron Jones, Linda Chastain and Belle Jordan, worked closely with the city and then mayor Tony Petelos. Artists on the Bluff currently works in col- laboration with Hoover City Schools and the City of Hoover, which has helped fund the project. The city has allocated them $50,000 a year for their first three years.
“They believe in us,” Williams said.
In addition to the studios, the Artists on the Bluff building features are sev- eral teaching spaces and other community
spaces. An ongoing gallery featuring the work of in-house artists and others runs along the hardwood hallway at the front of the building. All art showcased there is for sale.
A second gallery, the Soon-Bok Lee Sellers Art Gallery, is currently hosting a national show of Alabama Plaster Soci- ety. The gallery was first created when the building was used for community educa- tion.
The new Park Avenue Coffee Shop, open to both artists and the community, will serve coffee, pastries, cappucci- nos, lattes, salads and sandwiches. The former cafeteria space will host special events and dinner theatres. Hoover Arts Alliance, City Council and Board of Education have already held meetings there.
Williams’ enthusiasm about Artists on the Bluff is contagious. She is always in- viting in walkers and joggers, including firemen on a run, to tour the building.
“The excitement of the community has empowered us,” she said. Rik Lazenby and Linda Williams stand in front of
For more information on Artists on the Bluff, their classes and their opening event, visit artistsonthebluff.com or call 439-2860.