OLEAN — Della Moore can see it.
She has drawings of the planned layout of the African American Center for Cultural Development at its location on North Barry Street. There are names for exhibit areas and a planned interactive theater space. She has visited other museums and taken away ideas she’d like to see in the center.
Little by little, efforts to renovate the home of the center move forward.
Part of that effort was serving drive-thru meals — featuring pulled pork sandwiches or hamburgers and hot dogs — Saturday at Bethany Lutheran Church on Leo Moss Drive. The fundraising event, held in celebration of Juneteenth, is at the core of getting the African American Center for Cultural Development past the renovation stage.
Several volunteers, including Assemblyman Joseph Giglio, were on hand Saturday to prepare meals and hand them to drive-up patrons.
Moore, executive director of the center, said, while Olean and Cattaraugus County as a whole are doing well regarding COIVID-19, the pandemic has slowed progress with renovations at the center.
“COVID has really put a lot of things on hold,” she said. “Then there’s the price of (building) materials and the scarcity of materials. That part of it has been frustrating.”
Yet she has been pleased by the number of people who have visited, asked for tours of the former house that is the home of the center or have asked to do research.
“The center has been busy,” she said. “People are coming for research or touring … or they just want to stop there and talk about Black history. There is an interest.”
She mentioned a recent visit of a woman who attended the Olean campus of Jamestown Community College before the current campus buildings were conceived and built. The woman noted the center’s location — virtually on today’s campus — is a perfect setting.
Moore is excited about planned features in the center while raving about the work of Allegany-based architect Tamara Hilmey on the renovations.
Noting that it will have a commercial-grade kitchen, she showed plans that include Cafe Afrique, a space that would be available to the public for special events.
Tuskegee Hall will be a lecture hall, while the Micheaux Theater — named in honor of a ground-breaking Black filmmaker of the early 20th century, Oscar Micheaux — will be a space where informative videos will loop for visitors.
A large basement area will feature the Underground Railroad, of which Olean played an important part in helping former slaves on their journey to Canada.
But while the center was funded by a $225,000 award in 2018 from the city’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative, Moore said additional funds are needed to continue renovations, which also include handicapped-accessible lifts to reach different levels in the former house that was turned into office space.
The center is inviting supporters to become members, who will receive updated news of center happenings and notices of special events.
Checks should be made payable to the African American Center for Cultural Development, PO Box 240, Olean, NY, 14760.
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