GENEVA — Corbett Inc. of Philadelphia and the Dove Block Restoration Group have agreed to the sale of one of downtown Geneva’s most historic buildings.

The two organizations signed a contract July 2 that will make Corbett, a commercial interiors rep agency, the owner of the Dove Block building at the corner of Exchange and Castle streets.

Terms of the sale include a lease that will help establish a first-floor museum and community art gallery dedicated in honor of Arthur Dove, a Geneva artist recognized throughout the art world as one of the founders of abstract art in America. Dove painted many of his most famous works at this Geneva location and many of them now reside in America’s leading art museums.

“This is a great day for Geneva’s historic preservation efforts,” said Dave Bunnell, one of the leaders of the Dove Block Restoration Group. “We have not only renovated and saved a classic example of American architecture, we have managed to give the building a new purpose and keep it on the tax rolls.”

Bill Corbett, president of Corbett Inc., said he is proud to be bringing his company to Geneva and to be part of a project that honors American art.

“We are a creative, art-driven organization,” Corbett said, “and this project fits with both our business and art interests. We could not be prouder to be coming to Geneva.”

Corbett Inc. works with a range of clients as contract furniture and accessories consultants and intends to use the Dove Block as a gallery to highlight its portfolio of furniture to commercial clients from Buffalo to Albany.

While Corbett and the first-floor museum and art gallery will operate as separate entities, they will work closely together to present the Dove story throughout the three-story facility. For example, Corbett intends to recreate the famous third-floor “Dove Wall,” where Arthur Dove painted and displayed many of his now-famous Finger Lakes scenes, many of which Dove conceived while looking out the classic third-floor windows of this building.

“We think of our business as creating experiences for our clients,” Corbett said. “Honoring Arthur Dove as part of our Geneva effort fits nicely with how we operate our organization.”

The sale, which is expected to close by Sept. 1, will include six years of rent-free use of the complete first floor by the Arthur Dove Tribute Group, a separate non-profit that will establish and operate the new art gallery. Jim Spates, a retired Hobart and William Smith Colleges sociology professor, has been working with Bunnell for more than four years to give Dove a living tribute in Geneva.

“We couldn’t be happier with the progress we’ve made,” Spates said. “There is still a lot to do, but we believe Bill Corbett and his company will be the perfect partner to pioneer this sort of unique mix of public and private effort. In this difficult time, the regeneration of the Dove Block will reignite the Geneva Renaissance.”

One of the unique buildings in downtown Geneva, the Dove Block had sat largely vacant for more than a decade. Structural declines began to threaten the building’s future when the restoration group formed. With more than $1.4 million in state grants, the Restoration Group’s board hired Chrisanntha Construction, which shored up the building’s foundation and interior support, rebuilt its electrical services, floors and installed a four-floor elevator.

Corbett and the Arthur Dove Tribute Group will be responsible for finishing out the interiors after Chrisanntha completes its state-grant funded work in August. The City of Geneva also has been an active partner in this effort, providing grant management and help seeking tax abatements for the project’s early years.

“This truly has been a community effort,” Bunnell said. “From our donors, who helped procure the building, to the Bank of Finger Lakes, as well as our city partners, it has been a challenging project which appears heading toward a very successful landing for the city.”

The Dove Tribute Group is planning fundraising efforts and is considering a competition to fund a streetscape art installation to help establish the unique function of the new Dove Block.

“This will never be a big museum,” Spates said, “but we believe we can create an engaging expression of Geneva’s unique place in American art history.”

Spates noted that modern museums are becoming increasingly spaces for interactive, electronic engagements and the Tribute Group intends to explore those avenues. There are plans for a small theater within the first-floor gallery space.

“Even a small museum today can be a portal to the wider world,” Spates said. “In many ways, that is what Arthur Dove represents for Geneva, a city native that changed American art for the better.”

Chris Lavin is a former Finger Lakes Times reporter. He writes occasionally for the Times. He also serves on the Dove Block Restoration and Tribute boards.

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