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The Jacksonville Co-op also has new management

Paula Bandy is the new executive director of the Art Presence art center in Jacksonville. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

Art Presence Jacksonville Cooperative Arts Center has its first paid employee, a new paint job and a new logo as the organization evolves into a premier arts venue and more events.

Paula Bandy has been named part-time executive director. Bandy, who writes a wine column for the Mail Tribune, takes over from founder and director Anne Brooke, who will focus her attention on offering more courses at the centre.

“Paula basically takes my place. I’m 81 and it’s time for me to leave after 10 years,” Brooke said. “I will always be there to guide her for a while. Things happen that you didn’t expect. She brings a new face and a new direction to the gallery.

“We have to try to make ourselves known. We need people to watch the place,” Bandy said. She said that when she mentioned the center, she found that people in other local towns didn’t know about it.

Bandy has served as special events coordinator for the Natural History Museum of Utah in Salt Lake City and has worked for other arts organizations. She has also been a librarian, has worked in fashion and currently writes for other publications and designs jewelry.

“We really want to bring people in for talks, special events, music, wine tastings, things like that,” Bandy said. “It’s a hidden gem that people don’t know about. We plan to really put it on the fine art map.

More organized events will likely take place, and the gift shop will focus on more art pieces and less crafts. Bandy also wants to encourage the growth of a group of writers now at the gallery to emphasize both the arts and the humanities. She hopes to create a reading corner and do readings.

“I plan to become an education coordinator and will be teaching a lot more classes,” said Brooke, who originally planned to step down as principal at age 75.

Brooke led the effort that placed the organization in the former Jackson County Jail site on North Fifth Street in 2012 with a one-year lease of the city-owned property. The group renovated the building and added lofts that artists can rent upstairs.

Art Presence was started in 2009 by Brooke as a way to offer art walks in collaboration with the city’s merchants. In 2017, the city granted the group a three-year lease that allows for long-term planning of exhibitions and the time artists need to prepare for them. The term of the three-year lease continues.

The center currently has 31 member artists, admitted to the group after a jury judged their work to ensure they are of professional caliber, Brooke said. A jury made up of artists recently took over the evaluations, previously carried out by members of the jury, some of whom were not artists.

Members pay dues and contribute five hours of labor each month, often as guides in the kitchen where they can explain their work and that of others to visitors. They also oversee a gift shop.

Over the years, the organization has modernized the building, replacing the burlap-covered walls with plasterboard, installing new flooring and rehabilitating the second floor space. This resulted in the creation of a classroom and five artists’ lofts. The water flowed to the ground, essential for watercolor artists.

“For artists who don’t have a place at home, we keep the fees low. They have internet and water and can use it anytime, night or day. It was very successful,” Brooke said.

The grants covered part of the work. The organization has applied for six grants and received five during Brooke’s tenure, but expects more to be sought as the group seeks exposure.

The new gray paint with a black exterior trim was copied by city officials when they repainted other city buildings adjacent to the new 1883 City Hall, the former Jackson County Courthouse, which has a brick exterior.

“Not only did we paint; we have a new logo and new fonts and new business cards. I thought after 10 years we had to make these changes,” Brooke said.

Most exhibitions last two months. In December, the galley will host its fifth annual Angel Show, a well-attended event that draws submissions from all over southern Oregon and some as far away as Southern California, Brooke said.

“We want experimental things and cutting-edge things. Those are really important,” Brooke said. The gallery also needs to do more with social media and work to find donors and sponsors, she said.

The gallery’s current hours are noon to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. When the adjacent Jacksonville Farmer’s Market closes in mid-October, Sunday hours will change to noon to 5 p.m. Information can be found at

Contact Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at [email protected]

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