Anne Brooke, group coordinator of Art Presence, paints Friday inside the former Children’s Museum in Jacksonville. Mail Tribune / Julia Moore - Julia Moore

Historic building gains new tenant

Another of Jacksonville's historic buildings has found a tenant.

Art Presence will move into the former Children's Museum, once the county jail, where it will offer monthly art exhibits, with classes planned for the future.

The Jacksonville Heritage Society has signed a sublease agreement with the arts group. The society leased four historic sites from the Southern Oregon Historical Society when SOHS relocated to Medford in 2010. The society has sought groups to occupy and maintain the sites.

"Our goal is to get these buildings back so they are visitor attractions and yet restore the historic past they had," said Heritage Society board member Charlie Wilson. "What we are trying to do is bring these buildings back to life."

A maintenance agreement is in place on the Catholic Rectory, and there's a lease on the Office Annex that is next to the 1883 County Courthouse and the jail at 206 N. Fifth St.

Art Presence was formed three years ago to provide visual art during all events in Jacksonville, said Anne Brooke, group coordinator. The group had 41 members before the lease agreement and has grown to about 50, said Brooke.

"I have been wanting to do this for a long time. It just seemed like it wasn't going to work out," said Brooke.

"Primarily we want to bring art into Jacksonville," said Brooke. "We've got wine, we've got this lovely old town, now we will be presenting art consistently."

A first show is set for April 27 to 29. One show per month is planned, but Brooke would like to see the gallery opened regularly with members serving as docents.

Art Presence organized monthly Friday art ambles in Jacksonville last year from May through September. It also offered art shows during town events.

Art will be exhibited on the first floor, while the second story will be used for classroom space. Classes will help raise funds for lease payments.

"Obviously, we need to make money," said Brooke. "It's my commitment and my mission to make that happen."

The jail was built in about 1910 on the site of several previous jails, said Wilson. In 1927, jail operations were moved to Medford. The ground floor is about 1,500 square feet.

Art Presence will operate under the Art Council of Southern Oregon, which will offer management and financial guidance. The arrangement also will allow the art group to function with nonprofit status, said Brooke.

The Jacksonville Heritage Society also holds leases on the Beekman House, Beekman Bank and the Catholic Rectory, as well as the courthouse complex. Sublease agreements of up to a year are allowed. Jackson County, which owns the buildings, and the primary lessee, SOHS, must approve longer agreements.

Friends of St. Joseph, formed in 2010, took over maintenance of the rectory last year. A new roof was recently installed and other work has been completed.

Jacksonville Farmers Market uses the Office Annex to present cooking classes, and organizer Ken Snoke has a small office there, said Wilson.

The Jacksonville Review newspaper has signed a five-year agreement with the society to help fund maintenance and preservation of the Beekman Bank in exchange for installing a digital information kiosk in the bank's lobby. The kiosk should be unveiled in early April.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at

Share This Story