Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 11, 2012

Ashland Youth Ballet hosts ribbon cutting

Kenneth Hart
The Independent

ASHLAND —  If the upstairs floor of the building at the corner of 13th Street and Carter Avenue could talk, it would probably say something about how good it felt to have young feet dancing on it once again.

The building once housed the June Conn School of Dance on its second floor. Now, the extensively remodeled structure is home to the Ashland Youth Ballet.

The ballet company, which moved into the building in January, had an open house and ribbon cutting at its new home on Saturday.

For AYB Director Maria Whaley, the ceremony was the culmination of months of hard work and diligent efforts to raise money to refurbish the building, which formerly housed The Gallaher Group.

It also brought her full circle, in a way. As a youngster, Whaley took dance classes at June Conn when the school was still housed in the building.

The structure, which also at one time was home to Giovanni’s Pizza, became available after Gallaher’s, which had been at that location for about 25 years, moved to the former General Telephone building on Armco Boulevard. After the move, Whaley said she contacted Gallaher Group President John Gallaher to inquire about the building’s availability.

Gallaher, who is Whaley’s first cousin, agreed to lease the structure to the ballet company and essentially gave her carte blanche to do whatever needed to be done to convert it into a dance studio.

The AYB was previously located at 3502 Winchester Ave. Whaley said that building served the repertory well for a number of years, but, she felt a new home, one that would provide greater visibility, was needed.

She also said she thought the former Gallaher’s building’s location — just around the corner from the Paramount Arts Center — was ideal for the ballet company.

The building’s interior required extensive work. Drop ceilings were torn out, exposing the original embossed tin ceilings. And several walls that were demolished so Gallaher’s printing equipment could be removed had to be rebuilt.

Gallaher, who attended Saturday’s open house, said he was highly impressed with the remodeling job.

“It looks great ... totally different,” he said.

The remodeling was originally estimated to cost $180,000. The AYB was able to raise $60,000 through a major fund-raising drive, and Town Square Bank provided an $80,000 capital-improvement loan, Whaley said. The $40,000 shortfall was made up through volunteer labor and in-kind donations, she said.

“It was amazing. If we’d say ‘We need something,’ it would appear,” she said.

Whaley said her husband, Larry, was instrumental in keeping the project going and spent many an “all-nighter” at the building.

She said being in the new building had “energized” both the students and their families, and seemed to have created greater interest in the AYB.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.