By Robert Stoneback
The Daily Item
— BLOOMSBURG – A fundraiser to benefit tenants of Bloomsburg’s fire-damaged Moose Exchange arts center will be held today at the Caldwell Consistory on Bloomsburg’s Market Street.
The fundraiser will take place the same time as Bloomsburg’s fifth annual ArtWalk-In, also held at the Consistory. The two events will run from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
All the previous ArtWalk-Ins had been held at the Moose Exchange, but a new location had to be found after a Jan. 30 fire gutted the inside of the Exchange building. Ten tenant spaces were damaged, all belonging to artists or small retailers.
“Very quickly after the fire, we had a lot of people interested in doing some kind of event for the tenants of the exchange,” said Oren Helbok, executive director of the Moose Exchange. “It wasn’t even a question of asking, people were already there.”
The ArtWalk-In will feature a wide range of pieces by local artists, from painting, to pottery to photography, available for display and purchase.
Benefitting the Moose Exchange will be a silent auction, all the proceeds for which will be split evenly among the tenants of the Moose Exchange.
“We feel the equal division is by far the fairest, and will at least be a small amount towards getting them up and running,” Helbok said.
Included among the tenants is artist Jef McGreevy. While he was not renting space from the Exchange at the time of the fire, his work was on display in the building during the time of the fire. Pieces he had made all throughout his life were in the building, including art he created when he was a child.
“He lost most of it to the fire,” Helbok said.
Also raising money for the tenants at the event will be Rod Kile, who regularly ran fish fry nights at the Exchange. At Thursday’s event, Kile will be serving barbecue meals plus sides from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., at a cost of $10 per adult and $5 per child.
Live music will be performed from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., with a $5 cover charge for music only.
Kile had lost his Orangeville restaurant, Creekside, last year. Since then, he had set up Kreekside II in the Moose Exchange but lost much of his cooking equipment in the fire.
The last four ArtWalk-Ins have had an average of about 400 people attending, with the first being considerably larger since it coincided with the opening of the Moose Exchange in early 2010. There were about 600 to 800 people through the building that night, Helbok said. “The energy in the building was just tremendous.”
The board of the Moose Exchange is determined to reopen it and community support has shown it is still a valued part of Bloomsburg’s downtown.
“We have every intention of coming out the end of it with a better building than what we had before and it will support the activities that had been going on up until now,” Helbok said.
One of his former tenants, Legendary Comics and Tea Room, has already taken steps towards finding a new storefront while the Exchange rebuilds. The store currently has it own fundraiser up on the website Indiegogo, where it is looking for $5,000 in donations to help them reopen. The donation page can be found at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/fire-destroyed-comic-store-we-will-rise-from-the-ashes.
“I give them a lot of credit for not folding, but deciding … that they will get past it and keep going,” Helbok said.
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