The center aims to become a destination for locals and tourists with its on-site gallery, working artists' studios, community classrooms and services to support artists' careers.

The Ashland Art Center downtown is celebrating its grand opening with "Origami Fest: Enfolding the Community in Art" this weekend.

The celebration features free origami classes and film screenings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

A gala and auction is planned from 6 to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets to that event cost $20 each and are available at the center, Hanson Howard Gallery and Paddington Station.

The nonprofit art center, located at 357 E. Main St. downtown, aims to become a destination for locals and tourists with its on-site gallery, working artists' studios, community classrooms and services to support artists' careers.

"I'm thrilled that the Ashland Art Center is celebrating its Grand Opening this weekend," said Founder and Executive Director Denise Baxter. "This has been a group effort and a fine example of what is possible when a community comes together to achieve a common goal — regardless of the circumstances. This new resource will serve our community in so many ways. I hope that everyone will venture out this week to see the new facility and learn of the services we offer each and every person that walks through our doors."

The city of Ashland gave a $20,000 economic and cultural development grant to the Ashland Art Center. During the spring budgeting process, the Ashland Citizens' Budget Committee put strings on the money that the full amount would be awarded if the Ashland Art Center raised $125,000 — the halfway point of the center's $250,000 fundraising goal.

Some budget committee members worried that launching the center during a recession was a bad idea, while others said it would help stimulate the economy and help artists build their careers if it succeeds.

The Ashland Art Center has received the full city grant.

So far, the organization has raised almost $135,000 in cash and in-kind donations, Baxter said.

The Ashland Art Center is offering free origami classes to community members during the weekend grand opening celebration, thanks to a donation from a board member to cover teachers's salaries, Baxter said.

Origami classes are offered at noon to 1 p.m., 2 to 3 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. on Friday; 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday; and 11 to 1 p.m., 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. and 3 to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Each class covers a different origami shape, from folded boxes to irises.

There will also be demonstrations of chair painting each day starting at 10 a.m.

The art center will screen the 30-minute film "Between the Folds" at 2 p.m. on Friday and at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

"Between the Folds" showed during the Ashland Independent Film Festival and features some of the world's leading origami experts making new discoveries in the art form.

For a full list of classes, demonstrations, lectures and film screenings, visit The document lists fees for the classes because it was created before the Ashland Art Center board member made the donation that allowed classes to be free.

Some classes require registration. To register, call 482-2772 during operating hours from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.

The Ashland Art Center will host a grand opening gala and auction from 6 to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets cost $20 each and will generate funds for the cost of building renovations. The event features a silent auction, live music, wine, beer, sake and food.

The Ashland Art Center is still seeking grants to fund spaces with equipment that members of the public can use during open studio hours. Volunteers with carpentry skills are also needed.

For more information on the center, call 482-2772 or visit

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or