Community spirit is powerful and can accomplish great deeds. The Belen Art League was started 64 years ago by community members who wanted an avenue for the arts to grow in Belen.
Originally meeting in private homes and community venues such as the library, this community spirit led them to find a permanent home at 509 Becker Ave. Volunteers renovated the derelict building and local businesses donated to the cause.
In 2018, the Belen Art League asked the city for use of the empty space between their building and the property to their right. Their dream was to landscape this area to use for outside art events.
The city agreed and the league talked about various ways they could move forward with their plans. In the meantime, several developments occurred. A new fire station was built behind the gallery and the Bugg Lights Museum moved in next door.
Several landscapers gave ideas and bids on the landscaping project but the bids were higher than anything the Art League could afford. Volunteers did what they could by removing the rotting fence that surround the small backyard, cutting down dying trees and moving rocks.
Then winter hit and they learned that because of the way the ground had been raised to build the fire station the rain water flows back into the area behind the gallery and flood both the building itself and the yards of the gallery and Bugg Lights Museum.
Last year it rained right before the Bugg Light Museum had the opening of their Christmas display and turned the display area into a muddy expanse. Both the gallery and the museum experienced interior flooding.
The Art League had ideas on how to raise landscaping funds but then COVID-19 came along and put a kibosh into all these plans. Once again, community spirit rose to the rescue.
One of our members started a Facebook fundraiser with a goal of $800. We achieved that goal in less than four days. The majority of the donors live right here in our community.
We held an online denim jacket auction and sold a few hundred dollars’ worth of jackets that had been hand painted and decorated by members and friends of the art league. To top it off, we received an additional generous donation outside of what we were expecting.
We are hoping that we will now be able to take the next steps needed to level our backyard and prevent flooding and begin to work toward creating an outside space that will benefit the community and the arts.
Through the strong spirit of our community the Belen Art League is going to be able to carry out their dream of creating a beautiful area that can be utilized for various community events and the arts.
Thank you to everyone for helping us with our dream. Thank you, Belen, for your community spirit.
(Jo’l Moore is the president of the Belen Art League Gallery and Gifts. Contact her at [email protected]m or call 861-0217.)