Village Arts Factory shuttered by stormwater damage in Canton Twp.

Village Arts Factory shuttered by stormwater damage in Canton Twp.

CANTON TWP. — One by one, Sharon Dillenbeck dismantled frames, carefully removed her watercolor paintings and hopefully layered the salvaged art between sheets of newsprint.

The frames – dozens and dozens of frames – were discarded in a pile to be hauled to the dumpster. Ruined.

“I’m devastated,” said Dillenbeck, owner and director D&M Art Studio at the Village Arts Factory. “It was my life’s work in watercolor. I feel like I’ve lost part of myself.”

The Village Arts Factory was deluged by the storm and record rainfall that hit Canton Township especially hard in the wee hours of Aug. 24. Staffers arrived at the building early in the morning to find the grounds under water. Inside, they found about six inches of rainwater and, possibly, sewer backup.  

Sharon Dillenbeck of D&M Art Studios looks around her studio at Village Arts Factory after storm water rushed in and ruined many paintings Thursday, Aug. 24.

Dillenbeck had been preparing for a show the previous day and left framed watercolor paintings packed in foam blocks and stacked on the floor ready to be loaded for transport.

The water came in overnight and soaked everything, she said, including many back-to-school supplies and a treasured book by watercolor artist Steve Hanks.

“When I came in and saw it, I just lost it,” she said, noting she was grateful all the art hanging on the wall was undamaged.  

To add insult to injury, an agent from her insurance company wouldn’t even come to the site to assess the damage.  

“They just denied me over the phone, because it’s water,” Dillenbeck said. “They weren’t even kind about it.”

On its website, the Village Arts Factory bills itself as a nexus for arts, culture, music and community engagement. Its historic, multipurpose arts studio complex is dedicated to providing equitable, innovative, and inclusive arts programming and experiences for all to enjoy.

The facility is home to over a dozen studio artists and small businesses who offer classes in fine arts, music, fitness, and dance.

Jessica Gallina, the facility’s administrative manager, said the Village Arts Factory will remain closed until restorations are complete, but noted she was heartened by community response after dozens of people came out to help move equipment, vacuum water and otherwise help with the initial clean-up effort.

Teri Fry, Jim Fry and Dan Borton of the Cherry Hill Potters Guild work to cover shelves in the studio after storm water rushed into the Village Arts Factory overnight Aug. 24.

“It’s such a sad situation but it’s amazing to see everyone come together,” Gallina said. “We work with these artists every day and we know how much they put into their work here. We’re going to pull together and come back better. Our biggest priority is making sure we help them rebuild.”

Members of the Cherry Hill Potters Guild were also distressed to learn about the water in their studio. Although damage to the pottery wheels had yet to be assessed, most of the artists’ work was on shelves when the water came in and therefore avoided ruin.

“There’s damage to our hearts,” said Carol Ashworth, a founding member of the guild. “We won’t be able to be creative and have our Zen moments for a while. When you come here, it’s like entering a stress free zone.”

Beth Hazen, also a founding member and former president of the guild, agreed.

“It was a shock, but we all came together spent a day and a half moving things, cleaning and trying to protect fragile pottery,” she said, noting the non-profit studio offers classes for adults and also provides an outreach program for individuals with special needs.

“Our mission is to present pottery to the community,” she said.

Liz Versino, right, owner of Personal Pilates and Fitness at the Village Arts Factory, and instructor Carissa McKanna work to clean up the mess after storm water rushed into the building overnight Aug. 24.

At Personal Pilates and Fitness, owner Liz Versino, was also busy cleaning and moving equipment from her wet studio.

“It means lost business and lost income,” Versino said, noting while she had to throw away foam, wicker and other porous material, most of the expensive equipment was undamaged.

On its Facebook Page Monday, the Village Arts Factory said a professional restoration company has begun the work of assessing, cleaning, testing, and clearing the warehouse building of damage. The process will include the removal and replacement of damaged drywall and insulation and the deep cleaning of flooring and surfaces.

Updates will be shared in the days ahead, the post said.

Contact reporter Laura Colvin at or 248-221-8143.

Get the latest headlines for metro Detroit every morning in your mailbox by signing up for our daily briefings newsletter.