ECCOTA looking to 'Refresh' its gallery

Elk County Council on the Arts is looking for your votes to improve its art gallery in downtown Ridgway, one of the hundreds of projects in the running for a $25,000 grant as part of the nationwide Pepsi Refresh project."We will work toward making physical improvements in the gallery. A proper gallery space will help to support our local artists and create a more user-friendly space for the community," explained ECCOTA Executive Director Abbi Peters about the organization's project goal. Among those improvements would be the installation of new wood flooring, a new lighting system with integrated smoke alarms, removing drop ceilings to reveal and restore an original 25-foot tin ceiling, upgrading the HVAC system, enlarging exhibition space for a total of 1,000 square feet and improving an existing apartment to become an administrative office.With only one week left to vote, ECCOTA is in desperate need of votes, as their current ranking in the Arts and Culture category currently stands at 165 out of 1,129 projects. The top 10 project finalists are being announced on Feb. 1. A total of $1.3 million is being awarded as part of the current grant cycle. Voting can be done by visiting or by cell phone, texting 105119 to Pepsi 73774. The voting process permits one person up to 10 votes per day; however, they may only use one vote per project. Peters said individuals can use their nine other votes by voting for other worthy projects and in that project's comments section on the bottom of the screen, leave a message stating "a vote of support from ECCOTA (105119) - please return the love!" She added that "this gets other supporters from projects returning their supporters to vote for us."While on the Pepsi Refresh site, individuals may view a short video by Peters showcasing the gallery and the planned improvements, a project overview and cost breakdown; and photos of the gallery. Peters explained that only 1,000 applications are accepted each month for the Refresh projects. ECCOTA's application missed the cutoff dates in September, October and December, but stayed in the queue, where it rolled over and became active in January.The top 100 runners-up are permitted to have their applications roll over into the next month for a second possible chance of receiving funding."If we do not make it in the top 10 or top 100 this month, we will try to re-apply for February or March," Peters added.Peters, along with ECCOTA supporters, have been spreading the word about the project through Facebook, e-mails and phone calls."I stopped someone on the street a few days ago," Peters said. "We've been receiving a lot of support and the great thing is you can vote from anywhere, so a lot of our support has been coming from within the county but also from across the country. Vote! Vote! Vote!"She noted the response has been wonderful, as ECCOTA continues to advance in the rankings."Since 2003, ECCOTA has resided inside an old office/storefront in historic downtown Ridgway. The gallery is used for the display and sale of work by local and regional artists, but the beautiful artwork shares a home with old, stained carpet and broken tiles, ugly dropped ceilings and insufficient lighting. This grant would allow ECCOTA to modernize the gallery space and give it the much-needed facelift it deserves," Peters explained.The cost breakdown includes $5,000 for flooring, $6,000 for lighting, $3,000 for ceiling removal and restoration, $6,000 for HVAC upgrades, $2,000 for gallery expansion and $3,000 for office renovations.