The Old Jail Art Center
Backstory and Context
The Old Jail Art Center was established and located in the first permanent jail In the region. This building was constructed in 1877, but not with the support of the community. The project cost the public thousands of dollars in taxes. The structure was known as "the alphabet jail," because the men who constructed it carved their initials into the limestone fearing they would not be paid for their work. In 1929, the jail that once resided there moved to a new location, and the building remained vacant for over a decade before nearly escaping demolition.
Robert E. Nail, a man of the arts, purchased the abandoned building for $25 in 1940, and then the surrounding lot for $325. His nephew, Reilly Nail, inherited the building in 1968. Reilly, like his uncle, was interested in the arts. Nail and his cousin, Bill Bomar, made plans to combine their families collections of art, which ranged from Asian to American pieces. This family's donation still constitutes as the core of the present permanent collection. When the Old Jail Art Center opened in 1980, it opened with four galleries showcasing the four family members' collections.
Today, the art center commits to bringing fine art to the public, and the passion that drives its mission is made possible by the original family's passion for diverse cultures and fine art. Some of the present collections include: American and European pieces, pre-Columbian works, Asian art, outdoor sculpture, and more. The art center stands on 15,000 square feet, and its extensive collections account for that space. Finally, The Old Jail Art Center offers docent guided tours, summer camps, scholarships, distance learning, and other educational programs that allow for its mission to be realized.