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Leaky Roof Threatens Gallery5

After intense rain, damaged roof puts popular art gallery in financial jeopardy.

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Tropical Storm Ida's extended stay in Richmond did more than flush a few gutters around town. It left a black cloud over the future of Gallery5, one of downtown's most influential art galleries.

The nonprofit gallery on Marshall Street, which served prominently as the face of Richmond's arts scene in a recent New York Times spotlight on Richmond last month, took on some serious water during the protracted rain.

“It just can't get any worse,” says Amanda Robinson, the gallery's director, who's been working since she assumed leadership of the gallery in 2004 to raise money for the long-neglected roof. “I don't know what to do.”

Pausing last week between efforts to remove art from the gallery walls during the storm, the frustration strained her voice: “It's just pouring in the exhibition hall. We've had to take down over half of the works.”

Even before the skies cleared, Robinson launched Stop the Leaks!, an online campaign to raise money for a new roof, but Robinson says it'll take a miracle deluge of dollars to patch up the problem.

According to the Gallery5 Web site, the building was constructed in 1849 and housed Steamer Company No. 5. It is, according to the site, “Virginia's oldest fire station and Richmond's oldest police station and jailhouse.” Robinson says the roof is just about as old as the building.

She called the worsening roof problem a potential showstopper for the gallery, which operates on a shoestring budget with her and two part-time employees. The organization also faces nearly a quarter of a million dollars in debt from the previous leadership.

Last month the group managed to raise a few thousand dollars for roof repair during its successful Gallery of 5 Fires event, which primarily raised money for operating costs, but fell far short of what Robinson had hoped for. She used the money as necessary collateral to apply for a $25,000 matching grant for arts organizations.

“We need to preserve the structure, and getting a new roof is the first step to preserving the space,” Robinson says. “We will shut down if we can't get some help."

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