Friday, December 09, 2011

TOP STORY >> Arts council paints a rosy future

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville doesn’t quite have an art center yet, but it does have an arts council and a family fundraising event already on the calendar.

The city is trying to work out a lease agreement with the Pulaski County Special School District for the closed Jacksonville Elementary School off Main Street with plans to use some of the buildings for an art center.

Angie Mitchell, the driving force behind the annual Patriotic Spectacular; Roberta Bonham, a well-known local artist; Sue Khoo, with Unique Furniture; Dr. Alan Storeygard, an accomplished musician, and dozens of others are working to make the center a reality.

“It may not be on the school property like we want, but it will be somewhere in the city and soon,” Bonham said at an arts council meeting at city hall Monday night.

At the meeting, about a dozen residents volunteered to be on what the group is calling the Jacksonville Arts Council, and many others volunteered to serve in advisory capacities.

Mitchell was elected chairman of the council, and it was decided that the voting panel would be 15 members strong and include residents with backgrounds in the visual arts, drama, music and literary arts.

The newly formed council isn’t wasting anytime getting the ball rolling. At Monday’s meeting, the panel agreed to have a fundraising entertainment event on Jan. 20. Khoo will be putting a lot of it together, but the council will be putting out a call for volunteers.

The fundraiser, which will be at the community center, will be a two-part activity. Tentative plans call for a bake decorating contest and silent auction set for 5:30 to 7 p.m. and then entertainment from 7 to 8:30 p.m.The cornerstones of the entertainment segment, dubbed an arts and cultural celebration, will be a Chinese acrobat troupe, the Jacksonville High School Jazz Ensemble and choir and Storeygard’s musical group.

Tickets will start at $20, but the council doesn’t plan to charge people coming in just for the silent auction or to see the decorated cakes. There will be a $10 registration fee to enter a cake, and the cakes will be part of the silent auction, along with art-related items and just some fun stuff.

Khoo expects the program to raise about $10,000, which the council can use for what it is calling the Jacksonville Center for the Arts.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said PCSSD is very supportive of the city and the council’s plans but that nothing can be done until the district has the property appraised. The mayor said no date has been given for that appraisal to be completed.

But that didn’t deter the excitement or exuberance of those at the arts council meeting.

The group is also planning a citywide contest to come up with a design for the council logo. “We want to involve as many people as possible,” Mitchell said.

She sees the council and the future arts center as building the foundation for the future and preserving the past.

“If we get the Jacksonville school property it will allow us to use buildings full of memories. Buildings that are pillars of the community,” she said, adding that her husband’s parents attended Jacksonville Elementary.

Mitchell added that everyone is an artist and the council and center will provide opportunities for people to start enjoying the arts at a younger age. But she quickly said that artistic skills have no age boundaries.

“We have a 70 year old on the council who has just started to paint with watercolors.”

Bonham is equally excited about the direction of the council and the proposed center. “It will be a magnet for everyone from Little Rock through Cabot. We will be filling a large void,” she said.

The council will meet again at 6 p.m. Tuesday at city hall and the meeting is open to everyone who has an interest in the arts.