What was an empty storefront is being turned into an artistic hub.

Gallery on Gazebo in downtown Johnstown will open its doors on April 28, and organizers hope it will become a place where people can gather for meetings, talk about what’s happening in the area and attend specialty programs and demonstrations.

“It’s a place for stories, conversation and civic engagement, a place of calm, surrounded by art,” said Rosemary Pawlowski, a Vision Central Park capture team member who spearheaded the project.

Vision 2025 project

Vision 2025 provided the launchpad for the project, with the team finding the location on Gazebo Place in the former Holiday Travel location.

“It’s such a blessing to have the park and its activities as a backdrop and even incorporate it into our planning and programming,” Pawlowski said.

“There’s just something special about downtown Johnstown.”

The team has been working for more than a year to raise funds for renovations to the area and develop programs and strategies for its success.

“We did a customer discovery survey and asked 1,000 people what they would like to see in downtown, and many of them said art galleries and performing spaces, so what we want to accomplish is to fill that void with this arts venue,” Pawlowski said.

“We hope it will stimulate other art galleries or art-related venues.”

Grand opening

To celebrate the gallery’s grand opening, the exhibition “CreativiTEA” will run from April 28 through June 5.

The exhibit is being coordinated by Somerset resident Bridget Mayak, who is a potter, educator and artist.

The display features works in clay pottery, watercolor, quilting, paper batik, oil paintings and paper cuttings, and each piece relates in some way to tea.

“The Somerset County Artists Association was delighted and honored to be invited for the inaugural exhibit at Gallery on Gazebo,” Mayak said.

“Fifteen SCAA artists and four board members of the Guild of American Papercutters, whose national museum is housed at Laurel Arts in Somerset, have submitted over 50 pieces of art in a wide variety of media.”

Artists included in the exhibition are Peggy Black, Jerise Fogel, Erin Glessner, Elizabeth Goss, Dan Helsel, Jane Holt, Melanie Kehoss, Bridget Mayak, Angela Mohr, Randy Myers, Linda Harrill Peck, Shelly Poli, Robin Rae, Kathy Trexel Reed, Cindy Stinson-Chennel, Jeanne Wagle, Mary Wiley-Lewis and Susan Wilson.

An opening reception will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. April 28.

“We hope that all who attend the exhibit enjoy the pieces as much as the artists have enjoyed creating them,” Mayak said.

• The gallery will host “Tea Party for Mommy and Me” for children ages 3 to 8 at 1 p.m. May 11.

Guests will be treated to tea, dessert, a story, crafts and games provided by the Cambria County Library.

Cost is $10 for one adult and one child and $5 for any additional family members.

To reserve tickets, call 814-539-4345.

• From 10:30 a.m. to noon May 18, local artist Dan Helsel will present an old master’s painting demonstration.

There is no fee to attend, but donations will be accepted.

• From June 10 through Aug. 5, the “Tutti Fiori” exhibition will be featured.

The display will showcase original floral work from artists, florists and craftsmen.

“This is for anyone who wants to share original creations,” Pawlowski said.

• The summer will bring “Sunday on the Square” from 2 to 7 p.m. Aug. 4, featuring al fresco dining on Gazebo Place.

“We’ll have a group of 10 diverse chefs, and each of them will have a tent in the park, and people will eat out on the street,” Pawlowski said.

“We will be closing Gazebo Place for the event.”

The event also will include entertainment and an art sale with a curator who will explain each piece to prospective buyers.

Inside Gallery on Gazebo, tea cocktails will be available.

There is a $10 reservation fee.

Specialized venture

Along with being a place to exhibit art, the gallery also will house the Art of Tea Shoppe, a specialized venture that is being undertaken by Press Bistro.

“A tea shoppe has certain expectations to meet, but given that Jen and Jeremy (Shearer, owners of Press Bistro) have proven themselves to be creative food service providers, we feel Art of Tea will be in good hands,” Pawlowski said.

There will be tea programs each month on a variety of topics such as kinds of tea servings, tea service, mixing and personalizing teas, health benefits of tea and tea-leaf reading.

“When you talk about tea, it’s very relaxing,” Pawlowski said.

“Instead of fast food, we’re talking about taking time for tea.”

Pawlowski said the purpose of the gallery is to meet the needs and satisfy the curiosity of the people who visit it.

“Our most important function will be to listen to what people would like to see, hear, learn about, meet and do,” she said.

“We’re going to see what people want instead of telling them that these are the programs we’re having. We want to be all-inclusive and we want to be the harbinger of good things that are happening.”

Pawlowski said that if they listen to the wants and needs of the community, she can see Gallery on Gazebo becoming a part of the fabric of downtown Johnstown for years to come.

“We want to encourage people to get out. Even if they don’t want to come in here, they might look in the window and be curious,” she said.

Anyone interested in having an exhibition at the gallery can call 814-539-4345.

Gallery on Gazebo also can be rented for parties, meetings or special events.

Gallery and tea shoppe hours will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.

There is no admission fee.

For more information, visit Gallery on Gazebo’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/GalleryOnGazebo.

Kelly Urban is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. She can be reached at (814) 532-5073. Follow her on Twitter @KellyUrban25.