HERTFORD — Local art lovers and visitors to Hertford’s downtown will soon be able to take a step from the sidewalk into a world of local art.
The Perquimans Arts League is renovating a building at 133 North Church Street to serve as its future home. Arts League President Ed Sanford said renovations began in January and it’s his hope they’ll be completed by May.
Sanford said the new location will provide more space for PAL, as well as make it more accessible to both locals and visitors.
PAL’s current location at 109 North Church Street is just down the street. However, it’s located inside the Hall of Fame Building, meaning its arts gallery isn’t visible from the street. Visitors currently have to enter the Hall of Fame Building and pass by other businesses before reaching the gallery.
“The space we have is too small,” said Sanford. “It is not storefront.”
Sanford, now in his third year as PAL’s president, believes moving into the new space on North Church Street will raise the arts group’s visibility and make people more aware of the organization, which was founded in 1995.
“We were still not completely known,” he said.
The new space will also bring the Perquimans Arts League “in line with other arts organizations in the community,” Sanford said, referring to arts councils in both Elizabeth City and Edenton, both of which are based in their own building.
“We want our own space,” said Sanford.
Sanford said PAL bought the building at 133 North Church Street in 2017.
Sanford said the building, which is located directly across from the Perquimans County Courthouse in the central part of town, is currently undergoing renovations. It needs plumbing, electricity and a heating and air system.
He said those renovations are underway.
“Our challenge was getting the money,” he said.
Sanford said PAL secured a bank loan to finance the renovations but hopes to pay it off through a major capital campaign that will be announced soon. Anyone interested in donating to PAL to assist with the renovations can do so by visiting http://www.perquimansarts.org, he said. PAL has added a donation button to make donations easier.
When renovations are complete, the new space on Church Street will allow PAL to put in new systems for lighting and hanging art.
“We are really excited about the new lighting system,” said Sanford, noting it will help “do justice for our artists” by displaying their work better. The new space will also include a display case for art as well as a counter where art customers can make purchases. There also will be restrooms and a kitchenette.
Sanford hopes the new space will attract even more artists to display their work with the arts group.
“We need more diversity,” he said. “We want to reach out to people who have not been part of the arts community. … We see our gallery as being a main building block” to creating more diversity in the arts.
Because workrooms and office space will be located upstairs, the new space will also help PAL better accomplish one of its other missions: providing arts education and classes for children. Currently, PAL has to use space at the Perquimans County Recreation Center to hold workshops or classes.
Sanford said it will be more cost effective for the arts group to use its own space for those purposes.
“We will be able to operate workshops at much lower costs,” he said.
Having the new space will also make art classes more accessible to children living in Hertford, Sanford said. They won’t have to get transportation to participate.
Sanford said he also foresees the new space serving as a venue for receptions and meetings, similar to the way other area arts organizations use their facilities.
Sanford said PAL recently updated to a computerized point-of-sale system. All items for sale in the gallery are barcoded. Sanford said the new system allows for faster sales because customers don’t have to wait for handwritten receipts. The new system has also improved how PAL tracks its inventory.
The gallery is currently open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. For updated hours visit the PAL website or Facebook page.
Sanford said the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the number of people who are available to volunteer with the organization. Sanford said PAL needs volunteers interested in assisting in the gallery, people with design and educational backgrounds and people who want to serve on its board. PAL also need volunteers who are familiar with technology to help assist with setting up online virtual meetings and classes.
“There is always work to be done,” he said.