MILTON — While walking through what was once the downstairs bar area of Eagles Milton Aerie Club 1208, Steve Gibson noted that he had already removed two drop ceilings from the area.
Working around scaffolding placed in the old bar, Gibson said he hopes the area will be ready to take on its new life by mid-September.
Gibson recently purchased the former Eagles building on South Front Street from the organization, which closed in 2019.
Gibson is carrying out most of the renovation work on the building himself in order to transform it into the Art Academy of Milton.
“I’m not here to make money,” Gibson said. “I’m here because I love art, and it’s important for every community to have a space like this.”
Gibson, who now lives in Milton, moved to Lewisburg in 2008 to take a job at Bucknell University. He is originally from the Washington, DC area.
“I’ve been interested in the arts since I was a kid,” he says. “I draw, I paint. I worked in television, in the cinema.
Prior to working at Bucknell, Gibson was involved in the production of an entertainment television program in Washington, D.C.
“We also did a weekly national show, on PBS,” he said.
Since leaving his job at Bucknell, Gibson has owned and operated his own production company, Creature Feature Design.
Primarily, he said the company was involved in the production of music videos and television commercials.
“When I was in Lewisburg, I had a place called The Arts Underground,” Gibson explained. “It was an open studio for artists to work…COVID shut that down.”
Although he didn’t own the Lewisburg art space, Gibson has since been on the hunt for a building he could turn into an arts academy.
He first noticed the former Eagles building on the market in the fall and recently completed the purchase.
Gibson said the Eagles established their club in the building in 1928. While he’s still researching the building’s history, he said it was also a hotel at one time.
“My goal is for the whole building to become one artistic company,” he said.
Low-cost art classes will be offered on the ground floor. Additionally, he said the space will be available for rent and could be used for activities such as plays and performances.
Gibson has taught drawing and painting classes in the past and will do so at the academy. Other artists will also lead a variety of art classes.
“I’m not pursuing bar service, restaurant service,” Gibson said, adding that the bar will remain intact during renovations.
“The level (ground floor), I want to have it done and have a grand opening in mid-September,” he said. “I feel good.”
Ceiling work, painting and related renovations are in progress.
On the second floor of the building, Gibson plans to establish a space where artists can work, as they did at The Arts Underground in Lewisburg.
The third floor could be used as a space for artists or transformed into a studio.
He thinks the Art Academy of Milton will fit right in with the vibe of the community.
“I really appreciate the arts that we have now and coming up, the murals that we have,” Gibson said. “A lot of art-centric people are here and moving here.
“It’s a nice growing community,” he added. “It’s very friendly.”
After many people asked how they could help create the Milton Academy of Art, Gibson said a Go Fund Me page was created.
The “Help Bring Art to Downtown Milton” page has already raised $1,440 towards its goal of $8,500. Funds raised will be used to cover renovation costs.
Gibson thanked those who have contributed so far and noted that he has received kind words and various forms of support from many Milton residents.
“I’ve had tremendous support from (Milton) Art Bank, TIME and others,” he said. “They are excited to have an open space for art-related activities, small festivals.
“This is designed to be inexpensive and accessible to anything art-related.”
For more information, visit the Milton Academy of Art Facebook page.