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Volunteers transform studio in St. John
samantha seldon5 nashville WEB
Samantha Seldon of Nashville, Tenn., works her demolition magic above ground at the Gray Studio in St. John. The Bike and Build volunteers gutted the interior of the Gray Studio to make space for a new interior that will house an artists residence. - photo by JIM MISUNAS Great Bend Tribune

ST. JOHN — Samanatha Seldon wore her thick coat of dirt like a badge of honor.
It took her back to her college rowing days at the University of Louisville when she accepted the challenge of achieving more than she thought possible.
Removing the debris from a demolition project at Gray’s Studio was a dirty, dusty job that Seldon thrived on.
Did we mention she likes a challenge?
She jumped up on the scaffolding with Bike and Build volunteers Nick Moncy and Alden Kennenich.
“This is the most demo I’ve ever done. You climb on up and they pass you the tools you need,” she said. “We sledgehammer all the plaster and dig it out with spades. We’re all super enthusiastic and everyone was working really hard.”
The Bike and Build volunteers quickly transformed Gray’s Studio into a workable space capable of being a future home to a haven for artists.
“This is why we’re doing it,” Seldon said. “We want to help non-profit organizations create affordable housing. This is a perfect project.”
The 27 cyclists are traveling 3,584 miles from Nags Head, N.C., to San Diego, Calif. It marked Bike and Build’s only build day in Kansas.
“Every day is a different challenge. It’s all kind of fun,” Seldon said. “Yesterday, we biked 100 miles on a hot day. But we like to say the worst day on Bike and Build is better than a day at home.”
The Bike and Build volunteers returned for the second consecutive year to work on Gray’s Studio.
“They stripped the whole place of its plaster. It’s a volume of material to take out. It’s dirty and laborious work,” said Carolyn Dunn, Stafford County economic development director. “It’ll be a new finished work on the inside.”
University of Tennessee student Sawyer Smith serves as an intern with the Knoxville public defender’s office. He also helps operate an After School program for low income youth.
“It was really cool,” Smith said. “The majority of work is new construction, landscaping and building a house. Working with restoration is a different work experience. We’re used to getting dirty. The presentation showed they will make it an artist’s residency and next door there will be a business incubator.”
The Gray Studio is listed on the National Registry of Historical Places. Work began with volunteer help from St. John High School and through grants. New insulation and wiring will eventually modernize the building.
“It will house an artist in residence,” Dunn said. “Carol Long’s vision will provide a landing spot to establish their arts-based business in exchange for offering cultural and educational programs.”
Bike and Build volunteers also worked on installing cabinets at a Launch Pad Business Incubator, which will feature second floor living quarters.
Bike and Build participants are Austin Balser, Alden Kennenich, Amelia Riely, Alex Selden, Chris Polansky, Carrie Zimmerman, Elliot Chen, Erin Wheatley, Elizabeth Chatham, Emily Foss, Grace Jenkins, Jan Aldrin Enabore, Jessica Lipsett, Lynette Cole, Lizabeth Rodriguez, Marley Marano, Maureen Bishop, Martin Braun, Nicholas Allen, Nicholas Czekaj, Natalie Juhl, Nick Moncy, Nicole Parke, Ryan Bush, Sarah Hey, Shawn Rupp, Samantha Seldon, Sawyer Smith and Zoe Rose Clarke.
Bike and Build raises funds and organizes cross-country bicycle rides to support affordable housing efforts. The organization offers eight cross-country biking trips each summer.
For information about Bike and Build and to read the riders’ bios visit