Guest Article by Katie Griffin, 12 Gage Photography
My friend, Frances, and I are starting an exciting journey. We are partnering to bring a local art scene to a historic building in downtown Commerce, GA. She will be crowd-funding the purchase of the building and will have an art studio on the main floor. She will feature her paintings in the large windows that are centered in the heart of downtown. Her business name is Libertas Americana Art. She’s a very talented painter who specializes in Americana art. She has also annually donated a unique painting specifically for our events for human trafficking awareness in Hall County, Ga. Frances has a compelling vision for this area and she gives so much of her time and energy to helping others.
As part of her generosity, she is allowing my business,Twelve-Gage Photography, to use the basement as a studio space! We are so excited about restoring an old building, bringing life back into its walls and putting color back in its windows. We have a long road ahead of us but we both feel that this is the perfect time for us to take this leap of faith and establish our businesses in this town. We both crave to be more involved in our community and we both want to be the hands and feet of this local art movement.
So Frances and I and our friend, Rena, decided to bring some love and cheer to the old buildings we drive past every day in downtown Commerce by heart bombing them. Frances found that the National Trust for Historical Preservation was doing a Heart Bomb 2017 Challenge where people cut out hearts and place them on their favorite historical buildings that are either in danger or not. We decided to do our three favorites. The first building was the old Commerce Print building that Rena has bought and is currently remodeling. Its new name is South on Broad. She will have retail space, her office and local art gallery, office space for rent and eventually a restaurant all housed under her historical roof. She is bringing culture and opportunity to those old bricks.
The next building we chose was Hagan and Company, which will be Frances’ building. We laid lots of paper hearts on the front steps and all around the sides and took photos. It was freezing and windy that morning so we didn’t get as many photos as we wanted and it was too windy to tape or string any hearts up so we just held them and snapped as many photos as we could. This building used to be an old bank, circa 1900, and it still has the vault, the tiled ceilings and other beautiful details. We love this building because it tells a story of what once was, and we get to finish the story of what will be.
We then headed to one of my favorite old buildings. We drive by this building every day and every time we do, my four year old son says, “There’s that old building” and then tells a creative and different story each time about what he thinks goes on in “that old building”. One story had a snake in the dirty sink, one had Superman holding up the roof, and one had bad guys busting out the windows. Personally, I love the rock exterior and the green entryways. This building looks like it could tell a story of its own. It looks weathered and rugged. There is hardly anything left of the roof, so when you drive by you see the sky through the windows. I imagine myself fixing it up and making it an herb market or a place for a farmers market with live music and twinkle lights. I see it’s potential to be grand in this small town.
We hope our heartbombing efforts will remind residents that these buildings are beloved, full of potential and are here to stay. This town’s history is important for us all to remember and to respect as we move forward. Historical preservation is what gives cities and residents a chance to show respect for where each of us came from so that we can be grounded in our visions of flight.We all want to soar. But we must grow our roots deep where we are planted first.
Katie is a stay at home mom, photographer, social justice warrior on behalf of human trafficking victims, and community advocate.