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Posted on Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Saline to host public meetings about possible art center

By Erica Hobbs

A new arts and culture hub may be in the works for Saline, and the city’s Arts and Culture committee is looking for community input.

The committee is hosting a public meeting from 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24 at Stone Arch Arts and Events at 117 S. Ann Arbor St. in Saline to explore the idea. A second meeting will take place at the same time and location on Tuesday, Feb. 5.


The closed Houghton Elementary School has been named as a potential site for an arts center in Saline.

Photo courtesy of Saline schools

Saline City Council Representative Linda TerHaar serves on the committee and said its role is to act as a catalyst to start a community discussion on the development of the art center.

“The purpose of the forum is for all community members who are interested to discuss and look at the merit and feasibility of having an arts and cultural hub in the city or in the area,” she said.

According to the city’s website, the center could serve a myriad possibilities to experience, support and practice art:

“Saline’s Arts and Cultural Center could be a place for our many excellent musical groups to practice, perform, and store their instruments. There might even be a recording studio. And this wouldn’t just be for our established musical ensembles ... It could be for our many ‘garage’ bands too…In our Arts and Cultural Center, theatrical and dance groups could rehearse and perform. In galleries, our community’s visual artists could display their works. The possibilities are endless.”

TerHaar said the idea is to keep all existing art organizations independent but offer them space and location.

“We’re not envisioning some sort of monolithic entity that does everything, we’re envisioning a place where existing organizations and artists would be able to locate,” she said. “It’s about space and it’s about locating artists and arts and cultural groups in the same area, so they can interact if they want to enrich each other’s work and appreciate each other’s work.”

TerHaar said the project comes as a result of the recommendation by the 2010 Washtenaw County Cultural Master Plan conducted by Arts Alliance. The plan was the culmination of an 18-month, community-based planning effort created through the participation of cultural, educational, civic, business, and government representatives from each of the county’s key population centers: Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Dexter, Manchester, Milan, Saline and Ypsilanti, according to the Art Alliance website. It also included a specific working plan for each of the individual communities with the goal of protecting and enhancing the county’s arts and culture community that make it a desirable place to live and work.

“The interest is in enriching quality of life in all of Washtenaw County,” TerHaar said. “It’s not just a ‘feel good’ project. There is a growing body of research that shows that the quality of the place where people live is an economic driver as well.”

For the Saline plan, creating cultural facilities is one of their three strategic areas of focus and calls on the Saline Arts and Culture Committee to research what spaces are available in Saline and develop a plan to bring public art to its downtown. The full Saline Working Plan is available here.

Cost-wise, TerHaar said it all depends on the community’s vision for the center, including size, needs and location and there are no current estimates. She said, however, that funding would come from outside sources, such as grants, and not from the city itself.

“This is a very difficult time for everyone financially, including the city,” she said. “This is not envisioned as being funded by the city or by the school district in any way.”

TerHaar said the committee is considering the now-closed Houghton Elementary School building at 555 Mills Road in Saline as the site for the new center but is open to other options. She said the meeting will include a little bit of presentation but will be mostly a facilitated discussion.

“We’re looking for input and ideas and inspiration for what this might be for the community,” she said.

Erica Hobbs is a freelance reporter for



Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 5:26 p.m.