Amy Hillgren Peterson has been married to Ed since 1992 and is the mother of three children: two teenagers and an elementary student. Her fiction, drama and essays have won several awards and have appeared in local and national publications. She is the published author of a memoir and a novel, and is currently at work on more theatrical works and a short story collection. She blogs about faith; relationships; simple, sustainable living; mental health; and creative writing. She also blogs about new and exciting happenings at the Curiel Reynolds School of Visual Arts in Spencer.
This is the latest: we can use any and all support at the school board meeting on July 19. Please read the rest of this blog and decide for yourself if you support the district throwing away $3 million potentially coming into Spencer in the next few years. If their policy is to kick out the Curiel school, then the $3 million will probably go to Plymouth County or somewhere else instead.
Why should I care about an art school?
You've heard the rumors, and a few of them are true. We had a fire. The back part of the school was burned, and it will take a lot to fix it. However, we have help from some experienced remodelers and volunteer labor.
We freely admit that for whatever reason, the insurance on the building had lapsed. Louis "Tony" Curiel, the school's director, takes responsibility for that, and he said so publicly at the school board meeting last month.
We've been busy cleaning up from the fire. My son, Dylon, was there every day for nearly two weeks while other students were away at a glass conference in Ohio. Tony Curiel was meant to join them in Ohio, but the fire broke out the day before he was scheduled to leave. Since the residential students have returned, they, especially Alec Welch, have worked hard to restore the parts that can be restored with a good scrubbing.
We could teach art classes in the building today.
The fire marshall has determined the cause of the fire undetermined. It started in the back lodging area where two students had their beds and other furnishings and possessions. There's no one thing that is said to have definitively caused it, so there is no use in engaging in speculation.
While we work with the school district to figure out the next step, we will continue cleaning and restoring what we can. We do have an attorney, someone from out of town who has worked with Tony on other things.
More importantly, we have had kind offers of support and help from the art community. Arts on Grand has asked what they can do. Jesse Bogenrief of Bogenrief studios has been by to help us.
If you didn't have insurance, why should I pay for your stupidity?
This was asked on the Daily Reporter's article about the school board meeting, and it is a fair question.
I would submit that the Curiel Reynolds school has given to the community far more than it has taken.
Tony Curiel paid $100,000 just to move in to the vacant Reynolds School building. Since then, he has paid about $40,000 more into the local tax base, between the taxes he has paid and the payments he has made on the note held by the school district. At this time, he owes about $55,000 on the note to the school district.
He has a second note for $15,000. This could be paid in full when they finish with the neon installation at the Rialto Theater in Pocahontas, Iowa.
About the $55,000. It seems like a lot of money for the school district to be out.
Will you think of it another way?
Tony Curiel and the stained glass apprentices have been working on the restoration of some windows at St. Mary's Church in Remsen, Iowa. The diocese is working with St. Mary's on the full restoration. I'm not sure how that all works, but if the Curiel Reynolds School was to receive the commission for the entire church -- 2,000 square feet of stained glass windows in that building -- the price would be estimated at $3 million over the course of a few years.
That $3 million could cycle through Spencer in the form of paying for more apprenticeships and other vendors for the project, and for increased spending on equipment and supplies for the school, groceries and sundries, remodeling materials, and miscellany (insurance!) spent here in Spencer.
If Tony and the school are not able to continue in Spencer, Tony would likely rent a building in or near Remsen for the time it would take for the full remodel. That would be $3 million spent in Plymouth County instead of Clay. Does that really make sense?
No, there is no guarantee that he will get the commission, or that it will be approved.
Whatever the outcome there, we also have the possibility of St. Joseph's Church in Salix, Iowa. This one is not $3 million, but it is a project that would far exceed the $55,000 needed to pay off the school district note.
What do we do now?
This drives me crazy. I'm not a numbers person, and I'm not that great with money, due to the fact that I've never had any as an adult. But it simply does not seem that $55,000 is an insurmountable amount of money for something that enhances life in our town so immensely.
Tony and Jon Curiel took a chance on Spencer when they came here from Detroit five years ago. They put in a lot more than $55,000 to get here.
Can we pass the hat and put in $55,000 now to get them out from under the note to the school? This is not enabling, nor will it solve all the issues of the school, but it will free CRVA to stay in Spencer, and to draw from here when we look for talented individuals ready to learn who would like to be part of the only Architectural Stained Glass Apprenticeship in the Midwest.
In 2005-2006, Spencer sought to become a major arts and cultural destination. This commitment, as it was explained to me by members of SPACE when I came here for a tour of Spencer (I was contemplating a job possibility) was strong and would endure. Has it played out? Would people come to Spencer to be culturally enhanced?
I'm a writer, my 19 year old son is a visual artist, my younger children are creatively talented as well, and my husband enjoys music, theater, and other arts. The arts opportunities of Spencer were part of the draw for us.
This was the same promise made to Tony Curiel by the city manager at the time. He was promised support for the arts as Spencer grew in its commitment to artists. He was kind of left out to dry.
The Curiel Reynolds School will take on anyone as a student, and help them learn at their own pace.
Watch the movie!
I am still learning iMovie, and Hollywood has not been courting me for my voiceover talent, but I hope what I have put together here will help you decide for yourself if you, as a member of this community, can lend support to CRVA.
I hope the answer is yes. $55,000. Can we raise it, or come close?