Since its inception in 1967, the Greater Flint Arts Council (GFAC) has been a part of Flint culture. The non-profit organization is responsible for much of what we love about Downtown life – bringing to us the Flint ArtWalk, Jazz Festival, Tunes at Noon, wonderful art exhibitions of all mediums, creative workshops and education, local support and more. Since 1998, GFAC has operated solely on the ground floor of the former Peerless Furniture building located at 816 S. Saginaw Street and for the last 25 years, has had plans to renovate and open the rest of the building for programming space. Thanks to the tireless work of staff, a small army of donors and a timely grant of $1.25 million from the Mott Foundation, the renovation project has officially begun. “We’re ecstatic!” enthuses GFAC CEO, Greg Fiedler. “I’m getting old and I was afraid that I would not be able to finish what I had started.”
When the organization first purchased the building, Fiedler and the board of directors had made plans to renovate it in its entirety but the fundraising capabilities fell short of the capital needed for more than just the ground floor. Once the building officially opened to artists and patrons, fundraising began anew. “We were ready to launch the renovation in 2008,” Fiedler recalls, “but then, the market collapse happened and our funders pulled out of the project.” In 2014, GFAC was ready to renovate when the water crisis hit the city and all superfluous funds were redirected to remediation efforts. In the last couple of years, the project has been tabled in deference to the major development taking place in Flint’s Cultural Center. “We decided to hold off until their plans were completed,” says Fiedler. “We didn’t want to get in anyone else’s way.” Now, there is nothing holding them back.
“We’re ecstatic! Finally, it’s our turn.”
– Greg Fiedler, GFAC CEO
The renovation will include the basement, second and third floors of the building, increasing the usable space from the current 6,000 sq. ft. to 16,000. The third floor will be dedicated to performance arts and feature a small theatre and stage, as well as rehearsal space. “In the past, we’ve held performances in our gallery but the space is very limited and we are always worried about the art on display,” Fiedler explains. “Now, we will have a dedicated theatre area. Buckham Alley Theatre is excited to use the space and will be able to have a full season again.” Fiedler is quick to point out that nearly all space in the GFAC building will remain multipurpose and open to those looking for a place to host meetings, dinners, and the like.
The second floor will hold the administration staff and include individual offices, conference space and a classroom area. “We are currently operating out of three small rooms and are always stepping over each other,” Fiedler laughs. “After the renovation, we will finally have a conference room again since we converted our old one into our radio station.”
The basement will be reimagined to become a multipurpose space for the artists and groups. “We are planning to outfit and convert the basement into usable space,” says Fiedler. “Its walls are made of stone and we plan to open it to the rafters in the ceiling. It’s a really cool space.” Fiedler predicts that in as little as six weeks after renovation, the building will be booming with artists of all sorts growing their craft. The renovation is estimated to take nine months to complete. Preliminary steps were taken in early September with a whole building clean-out. Floor plans are complete and renderings are currently underway.
In addition to the new building, GFAC is committed to bringing fresh events to the Downtown district. The Music on the Bricks program kicked off successfully in the first week of October. Working with multiple Downtown restaurants, Music on the Bricks brought performers to places such as Churchill’s, Cork on Saginaw and the Hilton. “We have more events and programs in the works,” Fiedler teases.
Rounding out the year in the gallery, GFAC will host their annual Claire Mott White Michigan Clay Artists Exhibition this month, followed by the Michigan WaterColor Society Traveling Exhibition in December. “They are both stellar shows featuring numerous artists from across Michigan,” adds Fiedler.
The time has come for GFAC and the staff is extremely excited for what more they can do for the community. Personally, Greg Fiedler can’t wait for it to happen. “Finally, it’s our turn.”
Although renovations have begun, GFAC is still in need of funds – approximately $200,000. They are looking for donors who believe in their purpose “to be a catalyst of, and advocate for, increased artistic and cultural enrichment in our ethnically diverse community.”
If you would like to donate or volunteer your time, please visit greaterflintartscouncil.org and click on the “Support” button, contact Greg Fiedler directly at 810.238.6496 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.