MILTON — Steve Gibson has a big vision for the former Eagles lodge in downtown Milton, with hopes of it being an art and entertainment hub for the borough.
He recently hosted an open house for the Art Academy of Milton, an 11,000-square foot collaborative art space housed in the former Eagles’ building at 38 S. Front St. in Milton.
It is an offshoot of a similar venture in Lewisburg, Arts Underground.
“I like that Milton is becoming a really booming town as far as art goes,” Gibson said. “There are a number of places that have just recently opened up and there are more coming, to kind of really help reinvent the downtown, I’m happy to be a part of that.”
Gibson said he had been looking for a spot in Milton knew the Eagles location was available and he purchased it earlier this year.
“I knew it was going to take some work and pulled the trigger on this at the end of April,” Gibson said this week. “We have been working on it ever since. Many dumpsters of garbage have left this building,” as renovations continue.
Gibson said he is fundraising to cover some of the renovation costs.
They have been chipping away at everything from painting to plumbing. There are some leaks in the roof that will need to be repaired, Gibson said.
“Once we can get funding in and get people excited about it and get people renting the downstairs and excited about studio spaces on the upper floors, we can begin the process of transforming what we need,” he said.
“Floor one is nearly completely done, another month or two, floor two, and after winter we will do floor three, but it’s all dependent on funding coming in.”
“I’m so excited,” artist Ellison Strosser said. “When I first came into the building, I told Steve to get me involved. It’s totally transformed from when we first saw it.”
Gibson said the property has a lot to like. It’s large with big rooms featuring tall ceilings and it’s located right on the west branch of the Susquehanna River.
Because of the high ceilings, the rooms, Gibson said, are “good for video and film as far as lighting and sound go, it is good for events.”
He envisions a space for independent artists to unleash their creativity, whether it’s music, film, theater, painting or other outlets.
“There are studio spaces like we used to have in Lewisburg so independent artists can get low-cost places to set up and do their work,” he said.
“The first floor is meant to be a mixed-use large open hall area, this can be rented very inexpensively, there can be fitness groups, music, theater, comedy, whatever somebody needs a large space.”
Studios will be located on all three levels of the building, he said.
Some people have already claimed some of them but some are still available. On the third floor, Gibson said there is an “opportunity to have a large open gallery for showcasing local art, that artists can rent that by the week to do private shows.”
Gibson said he already has a writer and painter booked on the second floor, a photographer on the third and two artists who “have laid claim to spaces in the basement to do their work.”
Strosser will use one of the studios to create her own art and will also teach some classes at the facility. What those classes are could evolve, she said.
“I’ll teach some fine art classes and pretty soon I want to start acrylic for all levels,” she said. “Then some drawing and painting classes. I am kind of looking for what the community wants and then will cater to them.”