VERSAILLES — A group wants to turn the old Woodford County Middle School into "The Art Village," a center that accepts clean recyclables and then resells them to artists and art students in the region.
The former school also would display and teach art, organizers told the Versailles City Council last week.
"We've contacted many artists who are very excited about the prospect of maybe being able to come in and teach classes," Marjorie Evans, an organizer of the village, told the council.
The group would first have to raise more than $1 million in grants to buy the 1927 middle school building and the property it sits on at Maple Street and Lexington Road.
In 2006, it was sold by the Woodford County Board of Education after a new middle school opened. An effort to make it part of a mixed-use project stalled after the economy soured.
Similar art centers that reuse materials operate in New York, California and Columbus, Ind., said Julie Buchanan, former director of the American Academy of Equine Art at the Kentucky Horse Park.
The "clean trash" they take in from individuals, manufacturers, retailers and framing shops ranges from baskets and bicycle inner tubes to candle stubs and cardboard, Buchanan said.
At The Art Village, the materials would be used in art classes and workshops and could be sold for very little to school systems, civic groups, senior citizens and crafts groups, Buchanan said.
The Art Village would charge small fees for art classes and for rental of the auditorium.
In addition to art classes, there would be space for music teachers.
The organizers hope to get state or federal grants to buy the building, replace its heating and air conditioning systems and pay for a new roof.
The project does not need city approval, and organizers have not asked the city for money, but it might be a conduit for grants.
David Cupps, executive director of Arts Kentucky, an advocacy group, said he is not aware of such a large effort elsewhere in the state to use recyclables.
"The arts are a creative solution and a way to create jobs and, when you can tie those things together with being green and being local, we just love it," Cupps said.
The 12-acre school property is assessed at $1.15 million, according to Woodford County records. Organizers of The Art Village are primarily interested in the 1.6 acres on which the school sits.
Buchanan said The Art Village, which might open as early as 2011, would have 10 full-time employees.
Council members voiced support for the proposal.
"It's right up the alley of what President Obama and everybody wants: Going green, infill, beautification and reuse," Mayor Fred Siegelman said. "And we save a beautiful, historic site."
"It's an amazing idea," said council member Ann Miller.