New Stonewall Facility Opening with More Space and Programming
The new Stonewall Columbus facility is reopening soon, and with three times the space and a new executive director, it’s ready to take on a new form in 2019.
The project was initially proposed back in 2015, and followed a capital campaign that raised the organization $4 million. After some community feedback on their original proposal, the project joined the original facility at 1160 N. High St. with another building on East Fourth Avenue. In all, it’s given Stonewall Columbus three floors and 15,000 square feet to work with.
For the SWC staff, “it truly feels like we’ve come home,” says Jeane Heald, Development Director for Stonewall Columbus.
Since renovations started, they’ve been working out of a small victorian house on Fifth Avenue, but now they’ve got a few thousand square feet of office and administrative space on the facility’s second floor. While the first and third levels are more for community use, the second is dedicated for administrative work and contains several rooms for counseling and support groups, conferences, and STI testing. They’ve got enough room for ongoing expansion as well, so as they develop more programming, they’ll likely add more counselors and hire a program director.
As a background, Stonewall Columbus has offered a range of services for nearly 40 years, including STI testing, social programs like ballroom dance and creative writing classes, a women’s book club, coming out groups for trans men and women, non-binary support and social groups, art classes, and computer training for seniors. Heald expects that programming to return and grow exponentially as the center engages in Executive Director AJ Casey’s “100 Days of Listening.”
“As the community has grown and we’ve increased capacity, we’ll be reaching out and seeing what people want from Stonewall and how we can best serve the community, including all the different populations that we serve,” says Heald. “All age groups, all racial ethnicities. It’s a listening exercise — what can we bring to the community to serve them better and hear what their ideas for the center are.”
Through the third floor’s lobby, visitors will find a large community gathering room that opens onto a terrace. Heald says the space is ideal for a range of classes, including yoga, meditation, dance and movement. She also expects the area to serve as a resource for LGBTQ groups that have yet to establish their own brick-and-mortar space, and anticipates it being used for trainings and meetings.
“Our goal is to have every LGBTQ organization feel like this center is for them, and that’s always been the vision,” Heald says.
Downstairs on the first level, there’s the capacity for a 300-person gathering. Heald says that, along with the ability to host community events, she hopes to see a number of receptions and weddings taking place there. In all, the first floor contains a large gallery, featuring local and LGBTQ artwork; a lobby; another large community gathering room with a garage door to the outside; and a ground floor patio.
“The gallery will be a rotating space that really highlights local and LGBT artists. We’ll be changing art installations, featuring historic art highlighting LGBT history,” Heald says. “We’ll do some video, some historical artifacts, as well as people just telling their stories.”
Heald says Casey’s “100 Days of Listening” kicks of in January, and those interested in contributing their ideas should reach out to the center.
“If they’d like to come and talk to us or hold a focus group around their issues, that’s really what we want to have happen. We don’t want to dictate the 100 days, we want them to tell us,” Heald says. “We want to be here a long time, and we want to be a great community partner.”
For more information, visit stonewallcolumbus.org.