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PahloArt founders struggle but won't give up hopePosted Friday, January 28, 2011, at 1:01 PM
Pat O'Hanlon and Dee Yoh pose several years ago by the sign in front of PahloArt Center.
The art center has always closed during the winter months because heating the whole building on South Brunswick Avenue in Marshall was prohibitively expensive. But this year, the building is closed and there is a "for sale" sign out front.
People who care about the arts in Marshall and especially those who supported PahloArt and its programs may be wondering what's become of the project.
The project began several years ago with two people, Pat O'Hanlon and Dee Yoh, who were powered by more vision and hope and imagination than most of us can hope to imagine. I admit I was impressed and skeptical when I first heard about the endeavor. I thought the state of the building would prove too big a challenge for anyone without very, very deep pockets.
But Pat and Dee cheerfully set about creating a welcoming place for artists young and old. They were resourceful, inviting artists to adopt space in the hospital, which the artists could renovate and make their own. They offered popular art camps for kids each summer. They held shows and hosted exhibits.
They took a neglected, crumbly old hospital building and turned it into a thriving center for artists and art education, creativity and fun.
It worked. For a while.
But the couple has faced personal challenges the past two years that have made it impossible for them to keep PahloArt going and growing as they had planned.
Dee was hurt in a car accident in 2008 and then in 2009 was diagnosed with cancer, a disease she contines to battle.
Without her income to support PahloArt, the couple finally has resorted to seeking a buyer for the building or a partner or investor in the project.
"Losing the income itself was a large challenge, but then the medical bills on top have created a necessity to sell the building or find a partner to take it over," Dee said in an email message recently. "We would love to find a buyer that would have a desire to keep the arts in place."
Selling the building would enable Dee to seek the treatment she needs, she said.
"It's hard to have to let go of the dream of creating the arts center in Marshall, but what is clear is we can no longer do it on our own," she said. "While we would still love to see the gallery and children's interactive museum continue long term, we would need some kind of miracle for it to happen. We would look at any creative idea to make it happen."
But although the outlook looks bleak -- or maybe I should say "extremely challenging" because I don't think "bleak" is in the couple's vocabulary -- Pat and Dee plan to keep the center going as long as they are able.
"Marshall will continue to be our hometown when we are not escaping the weather or getting medical treatments," she said. "At this point, we are planning to re-open in May and will keep it going as long as we can while we wait for a miracle."
Friends of the couple have set up a site where people can donate to help with their medical bills, http://friendsofdeeyoh.chipin.com.
They will gladly accept ideas anyone has for how to meet these challenges. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pat and Dee are good people and they have been good the arts in Marshall.
I hope the miracle happens.
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Eric Crump is a former editor of The Marshall Democrat-News. He lives elsewhere now but still loves Marshall and Saline County. He's trying to catch up on all the stories he should have written while he was on staff.
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