Arts and Culture 2011

Amy Holtcamp



Former department store finds new life as arts center

Posted 8/6/2011 6:45:00 AM

There haven’t been elevator operators in Tapp’s Department Store for quite some time. But if they were there today, when the doors to the elevator opened you’d hear them saying, “First Floor…Drawings, Painting, Sculpture.”

The bottom two floors of this classic department store are in the process of being reinvented as the Tapp’s Arts Center. The upper floors were converted years ago into loft-style apartments

Back in 1940, the James L. Tapp Company built a magnificent new building on Main Street in Columbia to house its expanding department store. There was a restaurant on the basement level and two more floors of air-cooled shopping. At a time of economic turmoil, the modern architecture and clean lines of this fresh, new building served to buoy the spirits of Depression-weary shoppers.

Plans for the new center include the creation of more than 20 artist’s studios, woodworking space and pottery-making equipment, as well as gallery and performance spaces. Eventually, the old basement restaurant will be converted into a café. The planners have taken care to retain details from the original building while eeking out every bit of space that can be put to use in showcasing and supporting Columbia’s talented artists.

Renovations are still underway, but that hasn’t stopped eager artists from moving into their newly rented studios. Luckily, the Art Center’s saintly contractor is working around the artists, taking extra care not to damage the artwork already on display in the gallery spaces.

The renovations made a debut of sorts this week when the building opened as part of First Thursdays on Main. Many of Columbia’s finest artists were on hand to discuss their work.

Click here for more information on Tapp’s Arts Center, and stay tuned for information on the Grand Opening, scheduled for this fall.