Historic woolen mill, former cafe to become Clinton Arts Center

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The storefront of Kim’s Café in downtown Clinton has been transformed into a window of art thanks to the women planning the Clinton Arts Center, which opens this fall. Pictured (l-r) are Prudy Vannier, Ruth Knolls and Kristine Cravens. Missing from the photo is Jane White. Photo by Mary Kay McPartlin.

The empty buildings that most recently housed the Woolen Mill and Kim’s Café in Clinton are starting to transform into the Clinton Arts Center (CAC). Clinton residents have noticed a changing window display that began at Christmas, designed by a group of women with big plans for the building and for downtown Clinton.

Ruth Knoll, Kristine Cravens, Prudy Vannier, and Jane White are bringing art and artists to the buildings, beginning in the fall. Their goal is to help people discover the joy in getting hands dirty with clay, capture the world with paint, and play with glass and digital media.

The first challenge for the group is transforming the two buildings into a place for education, private studios, a gallery, and a community room. The women are working with architects to create just the right space that also celebrates the buildings’ history.

The partnership began with a small ad placed by Knoll. Knoll’s request caught the eye of Cravens and Vannier, and when the three met, their connection was instant.

“Prudy and I have been working on this for a long time,” Cravens said. They were pleasantly surprised to find a kindred spirit located in Clinton.

“I’m an Ann Arbor refugee,” Knoll said. Her experience is in digital media and she has fostered education as a co-founder of the Summers-Knoll School in Ann Arbor and through the Andrah Foundation with its focus on supporting education and literacy all over the world.

Knolls has enjoyed living in Clinton and wanted a project that would give something back to the community, either in education or the arts. Because Clinton has such a strong school district, Knoll believed the arts would be an excellent choice.

“Linking to community is important to us,” said Cravens.

“The Clinton Arts Center will be so wide open for participation in the community,” White said.

Renovating two historic buildings has been a delight to the four women. Their work with architects is focused on keeping the historic integrity of the both buildings as well as making them easily accessible and usable for the different art classes.

In addition to classrooms and private studios, there will be a community space shared by artists and accessible by the community. The goal is for CAC to have multiple spaces that are flexible for use by different groups.

The women hope to eventually bring in dance classes or to provide massages for people. They envision using the deck for people to have wine and painting parties in the evenings.

Students of all ages will be welcome as artists, whether they have experience or not.

“Kids in the community are important to us,” Cravens said. “We want to provide an environment where kids can expand their artistic hunger.”

The center also plans to reach out to nearby college students with internships that provide knowledge both in creating personal work as well as working in and operating a gallery.

“We want to give them a place of their own,” Cravens said. “They need to see what happens to a person with a fine arts major.”

CAC is starting with a drop-in art program for kids on Fridays this spring and summer at the Clinton Farmers Market. Next summer the CAC plans to offer an extensive student program.

The women hope to balance the loss of art classes in schools due to funding cuts.

The CAC will offer adult and children’s classes in clay, painting, glass, fiber and digital arts. State of the art equipment will be available for students and teachers.

Cravens is Director of Clay Arts, and is planning classes after school for students, adult evening classes, and different classes on the weekend. “We will have a fully functioning and operating clay studio with all the trimmings, including glazes, clay, wheels, and atmospheric kilns,” she said. “I am really looking forward to the opportunity this center presents.”

Vannier is the Director of 2D Arts, and hopes to help people explore their art across a variety of media. “Glass is an exciting medium for us,” said Vannier. “We are thrilled to be able to offer glass bead making, glass fusion and stained glass.”

The four women are now good friends in addition to business partners, and are excited about the approaching transformation of the buildings and planning the classes. Their website, www.clintonartscenter.org is up for the community to keep track of progress.

“Kris and I have worked together for a long time,” said Vannier. “This is our dream project and we are so excited to be able to make it happen.”

“I think there will be a lot of synergy,” White said. “It will be so wide open for participation in the community.”

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