Visual arts

Girl Scouts present idea for Blacksburg police station reuse | Local News

BLACKSBURG — The police department will move to a new home this year, an approximately 38,000-square-foot facility that is being finished on the old town middle school site downtown.

And it begs the question: What will happen to the current station building at 200 Clay St.?

Blacksburg officials say no plans are set in stone yet, but members of local Girl Scout Troop 397 offered an idea when they attended a town council meeting this past week: A community arts space.

“The general consensus is our community really needs something like the community center we have near the park [on Patrick Henry Drive], which is more for physical activities,” said troop co-leader Emily Crawford. “Our community needs an artistic counterpart to that.”

The troop said the idea was further encouraged by a survey that backs the idea.

A document the troop put together and presented to council during its recent visit lists a number of local and regional groups that survey respondents said could benefit from the space. Those entities include the Blacksburg Regional Art Association, the Renaissance Music Academy, the NRV Master Gardeners, New River Blues Society and Montgomery County Public Schools.

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Respondents said they would most use studios, classrooms, galleries, theater and music spaces, according to survey findings. About 36% of respondents said they would “use the space very frequently,” according to the troop document.

They further cited the town’s Comprehensive Plan, which they said includes a need to continue looking for opportunities to create vibrant civic spaces and support community-building events that “contribute to the social and cultural fabric of Blacksburg.”

Such a space could truly benefit a number of groups, Crawford said. For example, she said her daughter is involved with the Blacksburg Children’s Chorale, which she added doesn’t really have an ideal performance space.

Places the chorale has used include outdoor spaces and the historic Lyric Theater downtown, Crawford said.

However, “the Lyric is expensive, large and they don’t really fill it,” Crawford said. “Meanwhile, those who are involved in the visual arts would like more of a gallery space.”

The local troop’s recent work advocating for a community art space in Blacksburg is part of the journey, a process members must complete before they eventually pursue the Gold Award, the highest accolade in the Girl Scouts.

When the troop got around to discussing the need for an art space, its co-leader, Lisa Sedlak — who formerly worked for the town of Blacksburg — thought about the police station on Clay Street eventually being vacated, Crawford said.

“The girls were very excited about this,” Crawford said about the art space idea and its suggested location.

This past week, the troop shared a number of quotes and comments they got from respondents. The comments, among other things, called for safe places for Blacksburg youth “to meet and grow,” access to tools such as a pottery wheel, a place to build theater sets within the same building as the performance venue and even a place to simply hanging paintings.

The troop also posted responses to a question about what kind of community support respondents said they need. One response was: “I used to take pottery classes at the Y and miss that outlet personally. It would also be great to have a space to explore art without having to have all the materials at home.”

The new police station is slated to be ready for occupancy in May, said Blacksburg Town Attorney Larry Spencer.

The town has had some talks about what they could do with the existing station building, including considering the idea of ​​an art space for it, but those discussions have been on a “pretty limited basis,” Spencer said.

Any concrete plan for the building would require a detailed process including a likely study, and the town isn’t there yet, Spencer said.

Still, at least some council members are receptive to the idea.

“I think they [the Girl Scout troop] have captured an idea that seems to have a lot of currency in town,” said Blacksburg Mayor Leslie Hager-Smith.

Hager-Smith said she’s not sure if the building would be an ideal place for performances. But it could work well for a number of other artistic and cultural activities, she said.

“For example, you could teach foreign language classes in a location like that,” she said.

Hager-Smith, however, said some other ideas for the current station may come forward in the future.

The new station — which town officials previously said had a roughly $16 million budget — it will be part of the redevelopment of the old Blacksburg Middle School site. The new building will be double the size of the current Clay Street facility, which town officials said has long struggled with capacity.

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