BY TOM LAVIS
In order to establish Art Works in Johnstown! the first priority was obtaining a building large enough for artists to work, exhibit, teach and sell.
Rosemary Pawlowski, who is executive director of Bottle Works Ethnic Arts Center, has been involved with the process since Art Works was a concept.
Art Works is next to, but separate from, Bottle Works.
“When we obtained the Bottle Works building in 1993, we also expressed interest to the owners that someday we would like to obtain the adjacent warehouse for future use,” Pawlowski said.
But with money tighter than a banjo string, it would be years before the nonprofit could contemplate any type of purchase.
The buildings were obtained from the Hornick family, who owned and operated Hornick’s Sporting Goods and Hardware Store on Broad Street for decades.
After buying the Bottle Works building, it wasn’t until 2006 that money became available to buy the former stable and warehouse that dates to 1870 in Cambria City.
“Much of the credit goes to Paul Hornick III, who held on to the property until we could afford to buy it,” Pawlowski said.
“I hate to think how much of a drain it was on the Hornick family to maintain the building’s upkeep until we were ready.”
Hornick, who has since relocated to North Carolina, said his family agreed to hang on to the building despite it being vacant.
The Hornicks purchased the two buildings in 1979.
“When we first purchased the structures not long after the flood, they were in pretty rough shape,” Hornick said.
“The first order of business was to make them safe and secure.”
Hornick said his family used the current Art Works structure to house its sporting goods wholesale business and distribution center.
“Just about anything we sold in the store, we also were wholesalers to other markets,” Hornick said.
When Pawlowski expressed hope about someday obtaining the structure, Hornick said his family agreed that it was only right to hold on to the property in order to help sustain the arts in Cambria City.
Not unlike other vacant industrial buildings, the structure deteriorated.
“I don’t know of any city the size of Johnstown that boasts an art district like the one in Cambria City,” Hornick said.
“It has taken a lot of vision, hard work and patience by those involved to achieve all of this.”
When the idea to create a space where artists could come together and share their work with local residents never materialized at Bottle Works, Art Works fulfilled that part of the mission.
Art advocates worked steadily toward that goal through fundraising and planning.
A significant moment came in 2005, when then-Johnstown Mayor Don Zucco and his wife, Nancy, donated $82,500 to allow for the purchase of the Art Works building.
It became an independent entity with about $2 million being invested to date.
As Hornick sees how the site has developed, he is impressed.
“It’s fantastic,” he said.
“As I walk into the building, it’s hard to imagine that it’s the same structure.”
Ironically, when the building was abandoned, the only items stored in the warehouse were items belonging to the Johnstown Concert Ballet.
In 2012, new life was pumped into the former Hornick’s Sporting Goods store, which closed in 2007.
“I’m glad to say that Johnstown Concert Ballet is setting up shop in our old store,” Hornick said.
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