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Creative Perspective: Tighe Bullock on Preserving History and Building a Future for the Arts

Historic buildings are a tangible amalgamation of time. Every piece of wood carved, every stone cut to its exact dimensions, represents human labor trapped in a physical structure. I remember the first time I walked through the abandoned Staats building, the future home of the Tamarack Foundation for the Arts. The gaping hole in the roof, busted windows, and destroyed interior were daunting, but the historic grandeur and potential future shone through.

That is why I save historic buildings. They are a snapshot in time of what we once were: what we hoped to be. They are art in and of themselves. And that is why I could not ask for a better partner in the Staats Project than the Tamarack Foundation for the Arts.

I remember first seeing the draft plans for the Foundation’s creative incubator space in the building. Not only did it fulfill the potential I imagined- inspiring spaces for our state’s best artists – but it reminded me how creativity can thrive in the right environments. Ultimately, I see Elk City District becoming an environment in which creativity and community development thrive.

Preserving the physical structures is not enough: we have to change the atmosphere of our downtowns. After World War II, much of America turned away from mom and pop shops and toward strip malls and chain stores. While these types of businesses can be convenient and sometimes cheaper, we have let them thrive at the expense of our downtowns and our communities’ culture.

In addition to providing space for the Tamarack Foundation for the Arts, my companies provide premium spaces in historic buildings for five other creative entrepreneurs. My vision, in collaboration with a growing number of stakeholders, is to turn once beautiful, now dilapidating, structures into new business hubs for young entrepreneurs and artists. I want young professionals to be able to walk or bike wherever they need to go; work, shopping, the grocery store, dinner, or their friend’s house. A pedestrian friendly community brings us all closer together.

These buildings can be the perfect marriage of the old and the new; history and revitalization. As my crew and I finished the Staats storefront and set out to help the Tamarack Foundation for the Arts raise the necessary funds to complete their project, I envisioned a new neighborhood budding outside the windows on Washington Street. As I designed the new storefront I began to truly appreciate the difference between progress and preservation, and the importance of finding a balance.

With the Tamarack Foundation for the Arts as our ally, we can achieve this balance and set an example for the rest of the state of what a historic, 21st century West Virginia downtown can look like.

tighebullock-headshotTighe Bullock is a graduate of the WVU College of Law, a two-term city councilman of Thurmond, a small business owner, and a candidate for the House of Delegates, 32nd District.

Read more about the foundation’s fundraising efforts and become a donor at: https://fundly.com/tfa-creative-incubator.