A lucky artist will be awarded a downtown art studio for three months.

When that happens, it will help to establish his or her career and advance the reality of the Tamaqua Art District, a movement 10 years in the making.

Since 2004, several large downtown buildings in the center of the 55-block Tamaqua National Historic District have been repurposed as art venues, including former churches and meeting halls.

The new studio will augment that specific theme of adaptive reuse and, some say, will help to infuse additional creative energy into town through establishment of an art district. Moreover, a rotation of artists will help generate new ideas.

"I believe a visiting artist will bring creativity and fellowship that will benefit our community and the region," said one of the organizers, artist Stephen Bennett.

The Tamaqua Artist in Residence program is searching for artists in the area to receive the gift of a 1,100-square-foot art studio for the summer. The studio is on the third level of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge building, 201 W. Broad St. It will be available from June 1-Aug. 29.

The selected artist will be required to create a body of work for public display at a location to be announced.

Additionally, the artist will be required to donate one piece of artwork to TAIR at the end of the project.

Any interested artist is asked to download the application at tamaquaair.weebly.com and submit it with five samples of artwork to tamaquaair@gmail.com.

The application deadline for what is termed Summer Residence 2014 is May 10.

World-class artists

Tamaqua already is home to two world-class artists, Bennett and Joe Marioni, who set up operations downtown.

Known as "The Portrait Painter," Bennett is a New York native who established his gallery, studio and residence in the former First Presbyterian Church, 224 W. Broad St., in 2008.

From that location, he operates the nonprofit Faces of the World, an initiative that has allowed him to travel the world for the past 22 years, visiting 30 countries. Bennett seeks out indigenous peoples to capture their beauty with painted portraits. He has had solo exhibits in museums and galleries around the world, including the United Nations.

Faces of the World conducts portrait painting workshops with children in which they're encouraged to express themselves through the art of portraiture. He succeeds in his artistic endeavors thanks to appreciation for human diversity and love of the many expressions of the human face.

Marioni, New York City artist, set up Tamaqua operations in December 2004 in the former Independent Order of Odd Fellows meeting hall, later known as the Knights of Columbus building, 108 E. Broad St.

A force in monochromatic painting, Marioni is a member of the Radical Painting Group of New York. He works with acrylic on linen on stretcher. His work is exhibited in important public and private venues worldwide.

In Tamaqua, Marioni's building also hosts the Jon McCoy Design Studio, specializing in original, hand-sculpted crystal creations.

Also in the same downtown area is the Tamaqua Community Arts Center, a partner in the TAIR program.

Since opening in 2012, the center inside the former Salem Evangelical Church, 125 Pine St., has become its own artists' colony, featuring a wide array of cultural activities. The center boasts a full calendar of shows and events such as kids' craft festivals, plays, art classes, Zumba classes, educational seminars and theatrical performances.

In the same district, the Tamaqua Area Community Partnership acquired the former Tiki Bar, 20 Mauch Chunk St., in September 2013. The TACP hopes to further foster the artist-in-residence program by developing ground-level space and an upstairs apartment into an artist studio and residence.

Strategic partners

The idea of an art district is a shared dream of several entities that joined together in strategic alliance.

Their mission is "To collaborate with artists to culturally enrich the town of Tamaqua, Pa., and create rewarding and lasting relationships. This mission is an extension of the goals of the TCAC, TACP, Faces of the World Inc. and Stonehedge Gardens, which are to develop an arts district and the enrichment of the Tamaqua community."

Research has shown that participation and exposure to the arts promotes higher rates of community engagement, child welfare and social solidity. In addition, the arts increase a community's economic prosperity as well as enriching cognitive functioning, creative ability and academic performance for participants.

"The Tamaqua Area Community Partnership is a nonprofit charitable organization that was expressly created to improve the quality of life in the Tamaqua area and to do so by being a conduit and a catalyst and a place for ideas and energy to go to accomplish improvements that will make a real difference in the lives of people who live here," said Micah Gursky.

More information is available at http://www.tacp.info.

Faces of the World Inc. is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization run by a voluntary board of directors. Its goal is to preserve and celebrate diversity of the world's people through art education, cultural exchange and embracing tolerance.

Over the past eight years, Faces of the World has teamed up with volunteers/interpreters to teach portrait workshops to more than 8,000 children throughout the world and U.S. Their hope is to inspire a new generation to become curious and accepting toward the amazing cultural diversity of the world as well as themselves.

More information is available at http://www.facesoftheworld.net.

Stonehedge Gardens Inc is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization run by a voluntary board.

The group's ethos focuses on creating environmental sustainability. The gardens are open year-round for public enjoyment from noon to 8 p.m. free of charge.

At present, the gift shop is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. The gardens are three miles south of Tamaqua off Route 309, making the gardens easily accessible from the Poconos, Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia and the mid-Atlantic and New England states.

More information is available at http://www.stonehedgegardens.org.