The Brown County Art Gallery’s expansion project is $900,000 away from its final goal.

With the help of a dollar-for-dollar grant opportunity, the project gained $184,000 in December alone.

“Every day, checks come in the mail,” said Lyn Letsinger-Miller, president of the art gallery foundation.

“It’s just been amazing. It’s been a lot of artists. They don’t necessarily have a lot of money to give, but they have been, because they sense how important this is.”

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A family trust promised to match any donations made by Dec. 31, 2014, up to $500,000. At the end of the year, $92,000 was raised, and that will be matched for a total of $184,000, Miller said.

The only part not funded is an art education studio on the east side of the current building.

“We’re going to build, and the big push now is to get the rest of the money for the studio. Once we get that, man, we’re gone,” Miller said.

In all, the gallery foundation has raised $800,000.

The building site is being prepared now, but construction has not begun. They’re surveying and sorting out draining and easement, Miller said.

“We’re basically creating a site there between the gallery and the cemetery where the equipment can base itself without being on our new driveway. Then, they’ll go ahead and start on the north side of the building first,” Miller said.

“We’ll keep building until we run out of money.”

Miller Architects donated two years’ worth of architectural work, Miller said.

Building plans

The north side will contain multiple galleries. One will house the Indiana works of Gustave Baumann.

Baumann was in Brown County from around 1914 to 1917. He moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he continued making art with wood blocks, Miller said.

“We own a priceless collection of gouaches. These are original paintings he would do and then he would carve his wood blocks based on this artwork then make his wood block prints,” Miller said. “They’re worth $30,000 to $40,000 apiece.”

Another gallery will be dedicated to William “Bill” Zimmerman, the famous bird artist from Brown County. Zimmerman also wrote “The Birds of Indiana” and “Waterfowl of North America.”

He painted bird carcasses from the Smithsonian museum in Washington, D.C., that were once collected by Thomas Jefferson, Miller said.

Exhibits of his original paintings will rotate to feature different birds.

“He was a very big deal,” Miller said.

The other gallery space will be for changing exhibits, and the current main gallery will become a place to display early Indiana art.

The new exhibit hall will be where the Art Association and Indiana Heritage Arts works will hang, Miller said.

The hall will be connected to the new studio for working artists.

“We’ve got the history, we’ve got the present, we’ve got the future in this facility,” Miller said.

The studio will be used for classes and workshops, and will have concrete floors so it will be “a place where you can sort of make a mess,” Miller said.

It will also be set it up with sound and video so the gallery can do demonstrations and lectures, Miller said.

Groups will be able to rent that space.

This expansion project was on a local list to apply for state funds through the Stellar Communities program, but Nashville was not designated as a Stellar Community in 2014.

The attention the project received from being associated with Stellar helped, even through it didn’t get the funds. “All of a sudden, because of the Stellar efforts, people started paying attention,” Miller said.

The gallery is aiming for an October completion date, but that could change.

“We’re kicking around a lot of ideas. We normally do an event called Collector’s Showcase. We think maybe in October we’ll just do a big tour, grand opening kind of thing. That’s pending; this is all tentative,” Miller said.

How to donate

Project: Expansion of the Brown County Art Gallery

Send checks: Brown County Art Gallery Foundation, P.O. Box 443, Nashville, IN 47448.

Call the gallery: 988-4609.

Online info: The Facebook page “Historic Brown County Art Gallery” is updated often about the project.

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Suzannah Couch grew up in Brown County, reading the Brown County Democrat. A 2013 Franklin College graduate, she covers cops/courts, education and arts/entertainment.