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Eager for art
Group looks to transform old factory into arts center
Arts01WEB
Sheri Denning and Chad McGee discuss plans for the old Formit Rogers building in a room of the facility with 26,000 square feet. Warren Arts Foundation is looking to close on the building in September.

Warren Arts Foundation is hitting the ground running with hopes of someday offering a wide range of arts education and presentation opportunities for all ages in Warren and surrounding counties with a comprehensive arts center.
“About two-and-a-half months ago, we started the groundwork for Warren Arts Foundation,” said Chad McGee, who is the chair-elect of Warren Arts Foundation board of directors. “I had been driving for years with my daughters to the Arts Center in Cannon County. We had gotten used to carpooling with other parents who were taking their children there to do theater work and some of the adults.”
A group of those individuals met and began discussing a vision to create an arts center in Warren County.
“One of the things we very quickly decided was we wanted to offer a full-service arts center,” said McGee. “We have a very talented art community in Warren County so we were thinking about how this could help educate in the arts, how it could promote tourism, develop leadership among the board, and offer another means of entertainment in Warren County. We really decided very quickly we wanted more than just a theater group.”
The group originally began looking for a place to lease. However, that idea ended due to the renovation that would be required to turn a building into an arts center.
“Really, we wanted to lease it first,” said McGee. “We weren’t looking for something very large. We were looking for something big enough to do a small theater and a small gallery so we can have art shows. We looked at several and no one wanted to lease to us because we wanted to do substantial changes. If we are to turn it into a theater, it would require substantial changes.”
The group switched to buying and discovered 130 Enterprise Lane, locally known as the old Formfit Rogers building.
“When you drive up to it, it’s a little bit scary,” said McGee. “All the windows are broken out along the side. I set up a chance to go into the building and look at it. It was listed as a 50,000-square-foot space. It’s actually a little over 100,000 square feet. When they advertised it for sale, they only included the 1950s factory side. It’s going to take a lot of work. We know that.”
The group hopes to renovate the building in stages. Within the building, the group wants to offer live theater, concerts, performance training, rehearsal space, prop storage space, performance attractions, art gallery spaces, artisan spaces, studio spaces, art education classrooms, workshop spaces, commercial space, kitchen space, culinary art classes, an art-themed café, and more.
Activities will be run by volunteers.
“We want to stay as much volunteer-driven as possible,” said McGee. “No one will ever pay to participate in our programs, other than we may ask them to bring in a costume or something along those lines. We are organized as a 501(c)3 organization. Our paperwork has been filed. As many of you know, that sometimes takes months. We are supposed to know within 90 days.”
Along with donations, the foundation will seek to fund activities by leasing space in the building.
“As of now, we are looking at the factory space as eventually being retail space, leased storage space, eventually an arts-themed café, an art gallery, rental artist studio, and shared industrial art spaces,” said McGee. “In many ways, that will be what helps fund the whole center. It is a large building and it is going to be an expensive building to both rehabilitate for our uses and also to keep functioning. Electricity is not cheap. There are a lot of things that will go into the price.”
Group members wanted to offer a Halloween Festival and Haunted Experience in the building this year, but it will not happen.
“Unfortunately, in working with codes, we probably aren’t going to be in the building for that this year,” said McGee. “We will probably have an outdoor experience at the factory location. We won’t have time to get it up to code for an indoor experience. The occupancy number would be so high that it’s difficult to meet those codes. It will take a few months to get there.”
Warren Arts Foundation’s board of directors has 11 members. Sheri Denning is chair and McGee is chair-elect. Other members are Julie Cantrell, Valerie Womack, Sheri Garrett, Kennette Dixon, Ken Minnix, Gloria Humphrey, Rachel McGee, Terrie Kirby and Hannah Gribble.