Steve Gibson building the Art Academy of Milton
Steve Gibson wants to make art accessible to everyone. His latest endeavor, the Art Academy of Milton, is poised to do precisely that.
Steve knew he wanted to turn his love of sculpting and special effects into a career as a young artist. His Maryland hometown had few opportunities for special effects work, leaving Gibson to bounce around between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, teaching himself professional video production and photography.
In 2008, he accepted a position at Bucknell University doing in-house communications and video work. His position at Bucknell was the catalyst for his love of the Susquehanna River Valley. His next move was to put down roots and start his own business, Creature Feature Designs. In his free time, Steve found himself longing for a space to exercise his love for painting and drawing and that’s when his idea for a community arts center was born.
Located in Lewisburg, Arts Underground was the initial endeavor for a space that combined community and creativity, and it was well-received within the local arts community. After a solid three-year run, Covid-19 shuttered the doors and Steve threw himself back into his studio design work and spent time with his family. It was during an afternoon walk in Milton with his daughter, Emily Gibson, that the idea for the Art Academy of Milton was born.
Steve says about the closure of Arts Underground, “I felt a void. Nearly every artist I’ve spoken with over the last dozen years here in the area has always wanted access to a community of other like-minded artists to work alongside and collaborate with, as well as a friendly place to offer classes.”
Emily works for The Improved Milton Experience (TIME) and is always looking to attract new businesses to downtown Milton. She pointed out that the former Milton Eagles Lodge at 38 S. Front St. was up for sale. After a tour of the space, her father was ready to get started on his next venture. Steve rolled up his sleeves and got to work right away. He assembled a bare-bones crew to keep everything cost-efficient and set up a GoFundMe for half of the cost of the much-needed electrical rewiring. Renovations began in April 2021 and they hosted their first open house on Oct. 9, 2021.
“The community support has been wonderful,” Steve reveals. “People who knew the building in its Fraternal Order of Eagles days have been amazed by the transformation so far. I’m happy that it’s quickly being known as one of the places that’s improving downtown Milton.”
Gibson’s primary desire is to host classes of all types, delivering “high-end art experiences for a low price.” Photography, space for video and film sets, drawing, music, painting, theater, sculpture, comedy; essentially, if you can dream it, you can create it at the academy. The multipurpose functionality is one of the things that gives Gibson the most pride. The first floor is available to rent as event space and there are private studios for independent artists to rent, as well.
When asked about his vision for the Academy for the next five years, Gibson offers, “It’s my dream to have simultaneous classes, gallery shows, events and studio sessions at any given time of day, spread across all four floors. I love the idea that the building can become a living, breathing thing on its own, supported by not just the in-house artists and students, but by the entire community.”