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Unique art center planned for downtown

December 1, 2008 - Paso Robles Magazine

By Chris Weygandt Alba

A downtown art center will showcase artists working in their studios and displaying their finished pieces, if artist Anne Laddon realizes her vision.

Her “Studios on the Park” building project, at 1130 Pine St. across from the city park, was approved this fall by the Paso Robles Planning Commission. The building formerly was Pioneer Auto Parts.

“Studios on the Park” is also the nonprofit organization that will build the proposed artistic center on the site, devoted to fine arts and fine crafts. Housed within the facility will be space for exhibitions, working studios, galleries for other nonprofit organizations and classrooms for adults and children in the community.

“It’s unfolding before my eyes,” says Anne, who is executive director of Studios on the Park. “I am absolutely thrilled and excited. I’ve been working on it for a year and a half now.”

Anne envisions a vibrant, interactive, multimedia art center, the first of its kind in Central California and maybe the whole state. She’s successfully done it before, so she knows what she’s doing.

“I was a founding artist of the Torpedo Factory art center in Alexandria, Virginia, in the 1970s,” she explains. “It’s still going after 35 years. It houses 220 artists and 80 studios, and it’s wildly successful.”

Patrons will not only visit the galleries but also watch artists in individual studios working in many different media, such as painting, pottery, sculpture, jewelry, glass, photography, and fiber. On the drawing board are art classes for adults and children, lectures, and special events, as well.

“We are going to provide a creative, educational, and transformational experience,” Anne says. She points out that witnessing the creative process in action can serve as an inspiration to visitors. “Hopefully, we will inspire someone to try it on their own.”

“You’ll be able to watch things being created right in front of your eyes. Artists will be required to be working on the premises seven days a week. You’ll be able to visit with them while they work, throwing pots, painting, weaving, making prints. It won’t cost you anything. You haven’t seen anything like this. It’s pretty darn different.”

“We need this in Paso,” says Anne, who has lived here for 25 years. “If you look at our city’s economic strategy plan, the one thing that is missing is the cultural component. This is going to happen. It’s going to be a big and beautiful project for Paso Robles.”

Enthused about the studio plan, the planning commission unanimously approved it in September. Because the city considers the building to have historical significance (in the 1930s, it was a Packard/Hudson showroom), the plan calls for keeping some of the old architectural features.

The nonprofit Studios on the Park has leased the property for 55 years and plans a complete renovation of the current building to begin in 2009.