Oxford Powerhouse gets artistic face-lift

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – It wasn’t that many years ago that trucks and heavy equipment were the main occupants of the old Oxford Powerhouse’s front yard.
In its new life as the Powerhouse Arts Center, it’s no one’s intent to hide the building’s industrial identity, but the enhancement of its landscaping is helping draw a distinction between artificial and artistic.
“We’re making a park-like feature that everyone can enjoy,” said Wayne Andrews, executive director of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council. “We’ll have an outdoor facility that people in the community can use for classrooms and events and art markets. We’re really beautifying it and making an attractive entrance to the building.”
The new look was designed and is being implemented by Matthew Copp, the landscape architect who owns Hill Country Landscaping. Native grasses, trees and ornamentals will make the plaza attractive year-round, and human-scaled features will make it a place to contemplate and to learn.
“We’ve got sculpture bays, and we’re going to have benches,” Copp said. “We’ve put a limestone plaza down for now, but they’re going to sell engraved pavers, so eventually they’ll pave the plaza with those bricks.”
The plaza will be essentially finished by Dec. 15, when four new sculptures – each featuring some combination of wood, stone, metal or water – will be placed.
“We decided to do a rotating series of sculptures so it’ll be a changing exhibit,” Andrews said. The first four works are by student sculptors.
“It’s a great opportunity for them to be showcased and highlighted, and it’s a new space for the community that we’re talking about growing so our artists can live here and create and yet have opportunities here that will help build their careers.”
Beginning early in 2012, the Powerhouse will begin another addition. A grant was secured to add a technical room on the back side of the building to permanently house lighting, sound and other equipment.
“We’re doing more productions, more events, more programs, and we just don’t have the space we need for all those programs,” Andrews said. “At times we’re duplicating effort by pulling everything out and moving it.”
errol.castens@journalinc.com