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Cottrill made substantial donation to artists following Masonic Temple Fire


Two years ago in the days following the Masonic Temple Fire, one successful local sculptor quietly did his part to lessen the burden of the loss on the community’s artist colony, now it’s time we tell his story.

Alan Cottrill, a local native, donated $20,000 of his own money at an ad hoc meeting of the tenants while the fire still burned, his gesture both financially and emotionally helped his fellow artists, but more importantly, it showed that even in the worst of times, there is good that can come out of tragedy.

While the remaining structure of the Masonic Temple was still smoldering along Third Street in downtown Zanesville, tenants met at Tapa’s Caribbean Kitchen along South 6th Street to console one another and figure out what to do next.

Sitting in a corner of the establishment was a familiar face, but not someone who had a shop or gallery at the six-story building, Alan Cottrill, who has his studio adjacent to the restaurant.

While artists and business owners cried, spoke of their disbelief of the fire and tried to come up with a plan for what to do next, Cottrill offered advice but stayed mostly quiet.

That was until the end when he announced that he would be making a $20,000 donation to help the artists get back on their feet. Gasps and tears came from everyone in the room – for many of them they were at their lowest and here was someone offering up their own money to make their situation just a little bit more bearable.

“I know how hard it is to raise money for anything,” said Cottrill. “We’ve raided money for a dozen of my statues and people will give five, ten or twenty bucks and that’s not going to do much for these artists so I thought I’d try to make a donation that would help as much as I could.”

He had hoped his gesture would also help inspire others in the aftermath to give in any way they could. They did and while Cottrill’s donation stayed quiet, the act brought in others also discreetly wanting to help.

Rose Mary Ludt, who in 2022 was the Director the the Zanesville Appalachian Arts Project, ZAAP, an organization of local artists, helped distribute the funds to affected artists.

“It shows a lot of generosity,” said Ludt. “It shows tremendous support for the art community in Zanesville.”

Cottrill was born in Muskingum County and started a local pizza chain that went international. Yes, he is also the brother of local judge Kelley Cottrill.

After exiting the industry, Cottrill said he got into sculpting and has been doing that now for seven days a week for the past three decades.

“Once I touched clay that was it,” said Cottrill. “It feeds my soul. There is nothing you can do in your life that is more meaningful than making art. As you are an old person laying on your deathbed, you’re never going to say ‘boy I wish I hadn’t made so much art’ – no if you think about it, you’ll smile and say ‘I’m glad I made so much art.”

Cottrill started an artist cooperative in Washington, Pennsylvania where he had a studio for a while, but said his hometown was calling him back home.

He bought a building in downtown Zanesville roughly two decades ago and turned it into a studio; at the time, Cottrill says, he was the only artist downtown.

Over the years he helped bring in artists, growing their presence downtown, which culminated with their establishment in the Masonic Temple. When the building burned down, many artists lost everything – their work but also their studios and all of their supplies.

“I just saw an incredible opportunity in downtown Zanesville, especially because I put a few statues on the sidewalk, opened up my doors and I had 100 people a week flooding through, no advertising, they just saw the statutes and came in,” Cottrill recalled.

After a few others joined him downtown, they created the First Friday Art Walk, which took off and grew the demand for even more artists downtown and more importantly others willing to buy their artwork.

“Well I’m proud of it and I love to see the younger artists and the older artists give in to those creative desires and needs that they have,” said Cottrill. “It also gives them an avenue to express themselves.”

Like for everyone in town, the loss of the Masonic Temple was hard for Cottrill who recalled getting his haircut in the basement but also the culture the building always seemed to have, ‘giving back just seemed like the right thing to do.’

Alan Cottrill is a world-renowned sculptor with statues dotted everywhere from the United States Capital to libraries to town squares. His studio is located at 110 South Street, Zanesville.

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