By Kate Larkin
When Opelika native Henry J. Stern died in 2014, he left a part of his estate with instructions to his two children to use the funds for one purpose and one purpose only: to make a positive difference in his beloved hometown.
J. and Ginger have done just that. They have honored their family name in a number of ways, including Stern Park, the renovation of the Rocky Brook train at Municipal Park, investments in local businesses and now, their newest venture, the Art Haus.
To honor their mother, Roslyn Stern, who taught art for decades, both in the Opelika City Schools system and privately, the brother and sister team purchased a former church and two adjacent houses to provide working studio space, a gallery to create and display artworks, a teaching area to offer educational opportunities for children and adults, as well as housing quarters for artists.
“We did a soft opening by hosting the school system’s Superintendent’s Art Show and then held two small, private art classes,” Ginger said. “We also have a group of ladies, The Studio Sisters, who meet regularly to create their art and two local artists are currently working in our space.”
When all three phases of the project are complete, Art Haus will have seven studios that can be rented by local and visiting artists.
To make their vision come to life, J. and Ginger partnered with award-winning architect Behzad Nakhjaven to renovate the original church building.
“We let Behzad do whatever he wanted to do, with basically one request to utilize as much of the original, 1,600 square foot structure as possible,” Ginger said. “He found incredibly creative ways to do that, including repurposing beams from the ceilings into the beautiful, heart pine flooring.”
The open-air back patio is paved with bricks retrieved from the original Pepperell Mill on First Avenue, adding not only an artistic flare, but also reusing a part of Opelika’s history.
“We have a very creative board of directors who want to continue to expand the capabilities, offerings and purpose of Art Haus,” J. said.
Art Haus is just the most recent way the Henry J. Stern Foundation is making a difference in Opelika and leaving their family’s legacy. Don’t miss an opportunity to visit this treasure.