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Arts foundation helps transform downtown Au Sable Forks

AU SABLE FORKS - Efforts to invigorate business and activity in downtown Au Sable Forks are getting a huge boost as a renowned arts foundation now seeks to turn an abandoned building into a thriving cornerstone of the community.

The Appleby Foundation, the nonprofit umbrella of Rebecca Kelly Ballet, has recently purchased the Tahawus Lodge, a historic Masons' building in Au Sable Forks with the intention to renovate and reopen it as a cultural, community, and commercial center.

The building, built in 1911, was one of few to survive a 1925 fire that tore through the village and has stood up to recent floods and earthquakes, but has been out of use for over 20 years and is in need of extensive repair.

With the support of the Au Sable Forks Main Street Revitalization committee and the Essex County Empire Zone, the arts foundation will now seek to raise $1.2 million for the renovation of the three-story building.

Based in New York City and the Adirondacks, Rebecca Kelly Ballet has brought public dance performances and youth programs to towns throughout the North Country for more than 22 years, including choreography workshops and dance classes in Plattsburgh, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Jay, Essex, Lake Placid, Potsdam, and North Creek.

Rebecca Kelly and her husband, Craig Brashear, who heads the Appleby Foundation, have also lived seasonally in the area for the past 22 years at their home in Silver Lake.

Dozens of local residents joined them at a June 27 reception hosted by American Legion Post 504 as they presented their plan for the new Tahawus Lodge Center.

"In our 35 years as practicing artists and through our not-for-profit organization, the Appleby foundation... we have created programs which strengthen communities through the arts," said Kelly.

Kelly said they chose the Tahawus Lodge because of its prominent location in the center of Au Sable Forks and its proximity to I-87, Burlington, Plattsburgh, Lake Placid, and Montreal. Also, the presence of a revitalization committee showed a strong commitment to reviving the community.

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