The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

May 3, 2013

More details of city's artist incubator revealed at event

By Lora Scripps

— Photographers, painters, potters, poets and a number of other local artists of all mediums displayed their works during the High Cotton Art Exhibit Thursday at W.E. Estes & Son, located at 103 W. Washington St. in downtown Athens.

Local artisans were on hand with a number of people from throughout the community to celebrate tradition and new beginnings in the merger of 100-year-old W.E. Estes & Son and H.C. Blake Company, a 130-year-old company.

The event, which included barbecue, was also an opportunity to introduce plans to turn an old cotton warehouse, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, into a working space for local artists.

The warehouse, donated by H.C. Blake Co. President Jim Batson, is to be transformed into an art incubator known as High Cotton Art.

Trisha Black, executive director of Spirit of Athens, a nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing downtown, said the plan is to renovate approximately 8,000 square feet of the warehouse.

Black said the Spirit of Athens selected the name during a meeting. “Someone said High Cotton Art,” she said, explaining that when you have a good crop of “high cotton” you don’t have to bend down to pick it.

To her it meant “why go somewhere else when the cotton’s high and you have what you need right here.” “It just fits,” she said.

Plans are in the early stages. However, Black has been working with architects on a plan for the space. An architectural rendering was on display during Thursday’s luncheon.

She is unsure of the cost of renovation, but said she would like to stay around $300,000. Black said they would like to raise funds to make High Cotton Arts happen. Work could begin this fall.

“There is a lot of potential,” Black said about the warehouse. “Athens really needed this.” She said for years local artists have been looking for a space downtown. “We just didn’t have the space for them,” she said, adding they would end up going other places. “With this, we keep people here and showcase local talent.”