Artists on the Bluff

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Artists on the Bluff was a non-profit arts and education center which operated from the former Bluff Park School at 571 Park Avenue in Hoover's Bluff Park neighborhood from 2012 to 2017.

From the 1970s to 1990s, the school hosted community education programs, originally offered by the Jefferson County Board of Education and later brought under the umbrella of Hoover City Schools. Linda Williams coordinated the programs at Bluff Park School and eventually all of the Hoover Community Education, keeping the system's neighborhood-based elementary schools active in the evening hours with classes in square dancing, interior design, flower arranging, art, computer literacy, and personal finance. When the elementary school students moved into the new Bluff Park Elementary School constructed just south of the existing one, the community school was joined by a day care and space for community meetings. The building, meanwhile, began to fall into disrepair with some otherwise-unused rooms filling up with stored materials.

Williams retired when the Hoover Community Education program was shuttered in 2010. In 2011 she and artist Rik Lazenby formed Artists on the Bluff as a non-profit organization. The group negotiated an informal agreement with Hoover Mayor Tony Petelos and school superintendent Andy Craig under which the city would repair and maintain the Bluff Park School building and provide a $50,000 annual allocation for the group's operations for three years. The school board continued to pay for utilities for the building.

The organization scheduled classes and programs and organized exhibitions. It also subleased 20 studio and gallery spaces to artists and gallerists who organized their own classes and events. The renovated facility opened in September 2012. With the city's involvement, the organization flourished and served as a model for other publicly-supported arts programs.

The school's former cafetorium was operated as a coffee shop, and later as a lunch restaurant and caterer. The Hoover Historical Society began keeping their archives in the former school library. The school continued hosting public meetings for the Birmingham Amateur Radio Club, the Hoover Art Alliance, Girl Scout Troop 30746 and other clubs.

In 2017 the school board determined that it could no longer subsidize the Artists on the Bluff by paying for utilities, which had sharply increased with the opening of the Capers on Park Avenue restaurant in 2015. Williams agreed that the non-profit should negotiate a fair lease.

Within a few months, however, the school system determined that it could not afford to bring the building up to code nor to continue allowing it to be used without doing so. It agreed to lease the building to the City of Hoover if the city was willing to renovate it, but the Hoover City Council voted in September not to fund that work, thus requiring Artists on the Bluff and other tenants to move out. School board president Earl Cooper expected the superintendent to recommend razing the building.

In 2021 Hoover City Schools contracted for demolition of all of the former elementary school buildings except for the original 1923 schoolhouse, which was renovated as the home of their Student Services department.