Former Extension building in Albion finds new life as art studio/gallery
Marti’s on Main eyes spring opening in historic building
ALBION – For years Kim Martillotta Muscarella drove by the former Cornell Cooperative Extension building on Main Street. She watched the site decline, with little activity inside the doors of one of the prominent buildings in the historic Courthouse Square.
“Any time I see a building going to Hell it makes me crazy,” she said during a tour of the site on Monday.
Muscarella for the past decade ran Marti’s on Main, an art gallery and studio at her home at 229 South Main St. But that site, which was half of her house, was cramped to show case art and accommodate groups of people.
On a whim last December, she decided to look at the old Extension building, which had been for sale for years and was listed by her friend Jim Theodorakos of Morrison Realty. Muscarella and her husband, Neal, were given a tour of the building. (The Extension moved in 2007 to a new building at the 4-H fairgrounds in Knowlesville.)
The walls in the old building were all painted a very pale yellow. The floors covered in green and red carpet or asphalt tiles.
The couple also noted the high ceilings, big rooms and lots of wall space. They decided to take on the building, and give it a new life as an art studio and gallery.
For the past nine months it has been a full-time effort, transforming the interior.
It took three months to remove wires, and pull nails and staples from the walls and hardwood floors that were hiding underneath. They hauled out 5,600 pounds of carpet, plywood and tiles.
“In every room we ripped out a Walmart bag full of wires,” Mrs. Muscarella said while giving a tour of the building on Monday. “It took a long time just to get it ready where we could paint.”
Mrs. Muscarella’s son Jeremiah Knight, a cabinet maker, refinished the floors. The Muscarellas tackled painting the rooms, often in bold purple, blue, red, orange and yellow.
She hasn’t posted pictures on social media of the transformation while it was in process. Today, the Orleans Hub gives a sneak peak of the new Marti’s.
Muscarella is eyeing a spring opening for the building to the public. She would like to do three art shows a year, while using the space as her studio to paint and create sculptures. She would also like to offer art and sewing classes. The sewing classes is a tribute to the building when it was the Home Bureau, beginning in the mid-1940s.
First, she wants the Covid-19 pandemic to end before bringing in groups of people for events.
The building is a showcase of work by more than a dozen artists. She hosted many of them at her gallery from her home.
She prefers a European-style gallery in multiple rooms of a home. She doesn’t like the narrow rooms and white walls of many American galleries.
“In the European style, the fill up a house with artwork and open the doors,” she said.
Muscarella also favors artists who push the envelope and shun “normal” – “anything that’s a little bit different.”
Many of her sculptures fit that model. She takes pieces of driftwood, and common objects – yard clippers, her mother’s measuring tape, her father’s bowtie, glasses, shells and feathers – to create a sculpture or assemblage with a personality.
Muscarella looks forward to letting the public stop in and see the site in larger groups. For now, she is willing to show a few people in small groups. She can be reached at (585) 589-6715.