Written by Christopher Cudworth
When it comes to support for the arts community in the Fox Valley, Gerry Dempsey of Batavia Enterprises and his son Austin have taken leadership roles that touch all facets of their lives. As business leaders and property managers in the Fox Valley for 58 years, they have provided key rental space for photographers and artists, graphic designers and writers for many years.
But it wasn’t until opportunity met need that Water Street Studios was created in a former industrial building in Batavia that their commitment to the arts found such a high-profile expression.
“It was a like a perfect marriage of need and opportunity,” said Gerry Dempsey during a recent interview in the company headquarters, attached to the same building as Water Street Studios. “We had a building that was suitable right at the time that people in the community were working toward a concept for a community arts center.”
Since its inception in 2009, Water Street Studios has grown to house 29 Resident Artists working in both 2D and 3D mediums. It also hosts gallery openings the Second Friday of every month in addition to classes, workshops, events, lectures and more. Members of the public can become members of Water Street Studios to supports arts education and community outreach.
“That building has everything we needed to create Water Street Studios, from the main gallery to the children’s education rooms to the studios we built upstairs. It offered the perfect combination of facility and practicality.”
to have Austin’s business perspective there all along. He’s worked hard both on the Board and behind the scenes to make this happen and help put it on the right track. ”
The original conversion of the old industrial building into an art space took some physical commitment to complete the task. Gerry Dempsey related how difficult it was in some ways to make that happen. “When you have a former industrial building with floors that have been soaked with oil, paint and dust, it takes a lot of work to clean that up and make it beautiful again.”
“Our Batavia Enterprise staff even sanded all of the wood columns to bring them back to their original luster. In addition to the main floor, we created and built individual sutdios on the second floor for artists to rent form the Water Street Studio organization. The construction of the original building was an ideal setting for studios and an art gallery.”
Gerry and his wife had been to a town in South Carolina where old buildings had been converted for use by the arts. “The light was so beautiful, and it had inspired us to think about that someday.”
Recently Gerry Dempsey was recognized by Water Street Studios for his business and financial contributions when the Main Gallery was named in his honor in November 2016. “Water Street Studios is an asset to this city,” he noted in reflection on that honor. “It’s part of the business community. But it’s also an enhancement to the quality and lifestyle of Batavians. When we were downstate talking to some of the other arts organizations about our efforts, they all expressed admiration for what is going on with Water Street Studios. They view Batavia as leaders in the arts.”
That’s why Dempsey encourages residents from throughout the Fox Valley to become members at Water Street Studios, to access not only the art shows held by the organization, but to enroll students of any age in the School of Art or to take art classes instructed by Resident Artists. Water Street Studios is located at 160 S. Water Street opposite the Batavia Library one block east of Route 31.