Highland News Leader

Treehouse art gallery to be planted in new location

The early stage concept for the new project location that will be on the banks of Old City Lake.
The early stage concept for the new project location that will be on the banks of Old City Lake. Courtesy photo

Imagine looking out across a crystal blue lake to see a building that appears to be floating on the water, suspended by a lush grove of trees. That is the new vision for Highland Area Arts Council’s updated treehouse art gallery plan.

“We’re trying to create a sense of: ‘This is something special,’” said project architect Dan Hurford. “As an architect, I think this is a great project.”

The location of that perfect, serene spot? Along Highland’s Old City Lake in Silver Lake Park.

“What better location can you find for a treehouse?” Hurford said.

The HAC board has long wanted a gallery of its own to host exhibits, music, performances, house workshop space and art classes.

However, HAC members want something unique. A space that will not only show artwork, but is a destination just to experience the building itself.

Planning for the proposed art gallery has been in the works for a couple years, but the concept remains the same. While it’s called a “treehouse,” the building will not actually be supported trees, nor will it affect the health of the surrounding trees.

The new twist on the idea is the Silver Lake Park location.

The HAC had originally picked Lindendale Park as a home for its new facility, because the organization wanted the project to be close to Art in the Park. The annual arts festival is held there each fall.

However, Lindendale Park, which is privately owned by the Helvetia Sharpshooters Society, also plays host to the Highland Speedway, home of dirt track auto racing. Ideally, HAC members wanted a tranquil environment for their new gallery, full of peace and introspection, and roaring race cars did not correspond with that vision.

When considering that, along with the number of other events that are also held at Lindendale Park — everything from weddings to the Madison County Fair — HAC members realized that the building would have to frequently share available parking space and that might hinder their attendance at their own events, said Lynette Schuepbach, HAC president.

Considering all of these factors, Schuepbach said planners knew that Lindendale Park had to be subtracted from the picture and their destination would need to be recalculated.

After exploring many options, the council decided on the tree-lined shore of Old City Lake, which is city-owned property.

Getting the city on board

Schuepbach and Hurford gave a presentation to the Highland City Council last month about their plan to build the gallery near the access gate to the archery activity area at Silver Lake Park.

However, the new approach requires a parking lot to be built to support the quantity of people expected to visit the attraction. A sidewalk and bridge must also be added so the design is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.

Schuepbach requested the city approve a lease renting the needed land to the HAC.

She also asked if the city could help with additional parking for the site, provide for water and electrical hookup, allow for a septic system, and signage at the entrance of the park.

In her presentation, Schuebach also mentioned HAC was considering creating an outdoor theater area — the idea being that performances could be on the hillside while viewers watch sitting on the gallery deck.

City Council members voiced some concerns over the use of a septic system that close to the lake, but overall, there was a positive consensus amongst the members. The request for a lease was approved and city staff was instructed to draw one up, which the council could vote on at a later date.

As for now, HAC has the green light to start its planning.

Raising funds

Even with the city as a willing partner, the main hurdle is money. HAC is currently trying to raise the funds for the project, which is expected to cost in the neighborhood of $1.3 million.

Recently, the members of the council were presented with a $10,000 grant from the William Froelich Foundation, taking a small chunk out of the ultimate sum.

“We are very excited about receiving this $10,000 grant for the Treehouse Arts Center,” Schuepbach said.

The William Forelich Foundation was founded by Bill Froelich, a lover of art who was often moved to tears by various works. After he passed in 2009, Froelich’s will designated trustees to spread his wealth to special causes. The foundation has been dissolved, but between 2008 and the end of 2016, the trustees made grants to more than 130 different entities, altogether equal to more than $3.7 million.

The HAC also received a separate $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts last year.

While these grants have helped to make a dent in their cause, the council is still a long way from its final goal.

“We have around $35,000 now for about half of the architect’s fee,” Schuepbach said.

Still more fundraising is in the works. The HAC will be hosting its second Art Affair on April 8, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Lindendale Park Ballroom. The theme of the evening will be “Jazz in the Garden.” There will be entertainment, food, drinks and silent auction. All proceeds from the event will be put toward building the treehouse.

Art Affair fundraiser

The Highland Arts Council will hold its second Art Affair in order to raise funds for its Treehouse Art Gallery project. Here’s the basics of the evening.

When: Saturday, April 8 from 7 to 10 p.m.

Where: Lindendale Park Ballroom, Highland

Cost: $30 per person / $240 for table of 8

Refreshments: Hors d’oeuvres from Urban Farmhouse, complimentary wine, cash bar

Entertainment: Jazz band, a florist designing to music, artist painting to music, visual arts demonstrations, and several more art performances

Silent auction items: Paintings, sculptures, mixed media art, jewelry, oil painting prints, photographs, quilt from original pattern, Fox and Muny tickets with dinners packages, gourd art, Highland Community Chorus tickets, Hett tickets, Hard Road Theatre tickets, and more