Pomerene Center to continue its mission without home on Mulberry Street

| February 20, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic helped The Pomerene Center for the Arts see a building was not necessary to accomplish its goals. (Submitted)

Since 1984 The Pomerene Center for the Arts has been using the Greek Revival Mansion on Mulberry Street to help spread its mission of promoting community involvement in the arts. However, the COVID-19 pandemic helped the organization see a building was not necessary to accomplish its goals.

For the past 37 years, the Pomerene Center has made its home in the house at 317 Mulberry St., which was part of the Johnson brothers’ estate. Warner Pomerene was executor of their estate.
“The house was in such bad disrepair that as executor he let it go for sheriff auction,” said Anne Cornell, artistic director and community studio artists. “He and Lora Pomerene bought it and restored it. They made sure everything was historically correct. They lived in it, and when they died, they left it to the benefit of the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum. It wasn’t suited for showing collections, but volunteers ran it as a historic home for a while.”
Free Funeral Home was located near the Pomerene Center and approached the library board, which still owns the house today, about buying it.
“At that time the neighbors here were very interested in the area historically and forming an old town organization and focusing on the historic aspect of the neighborhood,” Cornell said. “They heard the library was going to sell to the funeral home and didn’t like that. The board had neglected to announce the decision publicly according to the Sunshine Law, and that was legal ground to stop the sale. The neighbors created the Pomerene Center for the Arts to take care of the house and give it public purpose.”
Unfortunately, times have changed, and COVID-19 made operating out of the house difficult.
“Over time there’s been major changes in art and the community,” said Cornell, who has been with the Pomerene Center since 2000. “The house really no longer serves the purpose it once did, and without it being able to serve any purpose at all this past year, it’s just not sustainable. We as a board started discussing what we should do.”
The board decided it could fulfill its mission more fully without the house and that it actually hindered its ability to impact a larger number of people.
“We informed the library board that we are moving out,” Cornell said. “The house is not ours to sell though; it is theirs. It makes me feel good that the money from the sale of this house will go toward the (Johnson-Humrickhouse) museum and will be an important part of making that sustainable. The house just no longer works for us. At times like these when nonprofits are really sucking in their belts, it’s really good to look at what you do as an organization that is unique and what you do that is redundant. As a historical event center, we are pretty redundant. Our decisions were made around making sure we are doing something that has value.”
With their mission being community involvement in the arts, Cornell feels they can have the greatest impact outside of the house.
“We are going to use our resources where we have the greatest impact, which is the artPARK and our community arts making program,” she said. “We also are really turning toward developing an arts residency program that will bring artists in, like how I worked at Keene and now am at Conesville. Having a studio space for those artists downtown would help really make them a part of our community and so would having them working in our schools.”
Cornell feels the greatest place they can impact kids is in the schools.
“You go where the kids are, and the Ohio Arts Council has a great artists-in-residence program that is really robust,” she said. “We are working toward creating impactful spaces for them to work and where they can deliver rich arts experiences to kids.”
The Pomerene Center also has been working to find homes for its collections. Megan Lightell’s series where she documents landscapes in the county was moved to the courthouse, and Hasseman Marketing will display some historical promotional products.
“Some of this stuff we tried to do in house, we realized we could do so much more effectively outside of here,” Cornell said. “We are finding these little homes for things that are great homes.”
The Pomerene Center will look for a community indoor studio space, but until then, it can still be reached at 740-622-0326, on Facebook or at www.pomerenearts.org.
“We are keeping our same phone number, but it will be a mobile phone,” Cornell said. “If people have ideas, we would love to hear from them.”

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Category: Arts & Entertainment

About the Author ()

I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!

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