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'Atelier 133' hopes to kickstart creation of an art-centered area in Johnson City

Jonathan Roberts • Jul 28, 2019 at 8:16 PM

In an attempt to make Johnson City an area that’s “known for art,” Nancy Fischman is taking things into her own hands, with plans to open 15 art studio spaces, a classroom space and an art gallery by next spring.

The art space — tentatively named “atelier 133” — is located at 133 N. Commerce St., right next to the newly opened “Go Burrito!” location in downtown Johnson City, and will include “Lazy Lady Baking Co.” a bakery/cafe run by Fischman’s daughter.

“I’ve been involved in the art community for almost as long as I’ve been here, which is just over 40 years,” Fischman said. “The fact that we don’t have, really, any kind of ‘center’ for the arts — I just wanted a place where I could offer space to other artists and also have a gallery.”

The building, which is about 6,800 square feet, was purchased by Fischman about four years ago for $58,000. Estimates to bring the building up to code and do all the construction, however, total a bit more — coming in at nearly $700,000. And that’s not including the roughly $40,000 she spent to put a roof on the building after she bought it.

“It’s going to be quite a bit of money, and I’ve got most of the money myself, but I don’t want to spend (it all); it’s my retirement money,” Fischman said with a laugh. “It’s quite a commitment from me.”

The commitment, however, is certainly worth it for Fischman, and the idea came together almost instantly.

“I walked into the building, and people always say ‘oh, the building spoke to me,’ and that’s really how it happened,” she said. “I told (the owner) I was interested, and he gave me a really good price, so that’s when I started realizing that I could actually put this together.”

“I really want to create a space so artists can collaborate and move forward, and we can actually create a space that will attract people to come in and see artists at work and buy their work,” she continued.

Fischman said that she believes atelier 133’s proximity to Skillville — a community workspace for arts located less than a half-mile away — could help make the area west of the railroad tracks Johnson City’s version of the River Arts District in Asheville, North Carolina.

“I just would love to see something (like the River Arts District) in Johnson City,” she said. “That’d be great.”

Regardless, Fischman is a firm believer in the arts and their ability to add to a city’s culture.

“I just see just amazing things happening in Johnson City and it’s just so exciting,” she said. “Art can be a real economic generator.”

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