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Sunday, October 4, 2015
By +Scott Leffler

Local photographer and artist Heather N. Grimmer has signed a contract to purchase Market Street Art Studios as of Jan. 1.

Grimmer, who has maintained a studio at the sprawling 247 Market St. complex for over four years, is purchasing the property from Art Hilger and Sally Bisher, owners of Hilger Properties, who bought the building along with their father in the early 1980s.

Hilger, 68, and Bisher, 74, both cite age and health as their reason for divesting themselves of the property, which has grown from a small 10-studio art space to an area with nearly 30 studios and pair of galleries.

A letter went out Friday from Hilger Properties to the current tenants explaining their decision.

"It is with deep regret that Sally and I give up our time with all of you," the letter says. "The Art Center has been a great adventure and even greater challenge to run. We have met some wonderful people, wonderful artists and made some great friends but our ages and health conditions prevent us from continuing with this ongoing project. Heather brings youth, enthusiasm, and great artistic and commercial experience to the project. I can't wait to see how it matures."

"I like idea of someone young and fresh coming in and carrying it forward," Bisher said this morning. "I think she has everything we wanted." In short, Bisher explained, the pair felt that Grimmer would carry the artistic community in the same direction they would have carried it themselves.

Asked if she was happy with what the community has become, Bisher said, "I like what we have. ... I would have done a million other things. There's so much more that could happen."

Grimmer, who is co-publisher of East Niagara Post — which also calls 247 Market St. home — intends to carry out Bisher and Hilger's vision, which she explained in her own letter to the tenants of the complex.

"I'm humbled by Art and Sally's decision to sell Market Street Art Studios to me and entrust me to continue to carry out their vision of growing the arts community here in Lockport," she said. "I've had so much respect for Art and Sally over the years, and it's only grown these past couple months while we've gotten to know each other better in preparation for this announcement. I hope I can make them proud."

She told the tenants that while there would be some changes forthcoming — the biggest of which is the complex's name — the transition of day-to-day operations of the center would be seamless.

Specific plans involve incorporating a downstairs classroom space into the art center. There is currently a classroom in the center's second floor, but she hopes a ground-level classroom will "allow accessibility to those who might have difficulty going up and down the stairs because the love of art should be open to all." She also plans to work hands-on with the Lockport community to get more people into the center — as visitors, guests, displayers, tenants, or as she calls them, "resident master artists" and students. With the new classroom, she hopes to be able to offer more art classes at the center.

The center's new name, ART247, was made necessary for legal reasons, "but more so, it should help to invigorate the image of MSAS. It obviously plays on the address of the building, but also ... the artistic community we all aim to foster here on a daily basis," according to Grimmer's letter.

Aside from the date of transfer, specific details of the purchase are not being made available. The property has an assessed value of $400,000 according to City of Lockport records.

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