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New space first step in arts plan

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The Yellow Springs Arts Council found its first home this spring in a one-room perch over Design Sleep at 108 Dayton Street, a space provided by funds from the Yellow Springs Center for the Arts Steering Committee. With separate but complementary missions, the two groups will share the new space as the Arts Council reaches to expand its membership and its role in the community, and the steering committee works toward its goals to establish a storefront presence for the arts, make the Little Art Theatre a sustainable resource and identify a performing arts space in the village suitable for all the artistic disciplines.

The groups hosted a grand opening reception in the new space at last Friday’s Fling in the Springs.

“Arts Council is striving to expand its reach to encompass all the arts disciplines, including writers, dancers, musicians, poets and visual artists,” Arts Council board member Deb Housh said on Friday. “The group wants to strengthen itself by joining with existing arts organizations and helping them to come together for meaningful collaboration.”

Arts Council has made other efforts over the last several years to grow itself through the work of its artist members, but this time its goals are fueled by the funds and organizational expertise provided by the Morgan Family Foundation grant that has funded the task of establishing an arts center in the village. While the steering committee leads the overall set of goals to establish a center, it is acting as temporary mentor to guide the Arts Council into a greater leadership role and perhaps displace it as the permanent administrative center for the arts in Yellow Springs, steering committee administrator Laura Carlson said.

“We would like to see all the arts organizations in Yellow Springs become a member of Arts Council so that they are all connected like a wheel with spokes,” she said. “Arts Council is being prepared to take a greater role now, and as things move along they hope to have some staff to take on the more administrative arts functions.”

Arts Council has established a set of goals, beginning with creating a board of trustees to guide the process of broadening its local connections and increasing benefits to its members. According to Housh, the Arts Council aims to compile a comprehensive database of local artists and art organizations and provide stronger marketing and grant seeking services for its members. As a 501c3 nonprofit group, Arts Council can act as a fiscal agent by receiving grants for projects that align with its mission to promote art in Yellow Springs. Over $150,000 in grant money has passed through Arts Council for local projects over the past five years, Carlson said.

Now that Arts Council has a centralized locale with exhibition space on the walls, members will also be able to schedule art openings, hold meetings and, Housh hopes, small art events such as poetry readings and cross-disciplinary presentations.

Though the steering committee is currently funding the lease on the space, which is owned by Bob Baldwin, that group hopes the Arts Council will raise revenues as well, which could eventually fund the space, Carlson said. Arts Council, which has about 110 members, is currently funded through membership dues and sliding-scale fees for serving as a fiscal agent. The dues will likely increase from their current range of $15 to $30 for artists and organizations, and, Housh said, as awareness of the Arts Council profile increases, hopefully community members will see the value in supporting such a group.

Always with a longer view in mind, the steering committee planners see the new space and collaboration as a first step toward a “professional storefront presence for the arts,” which the Arts Council, with greater administrative capacity, could end up managing, Carlson said. That space would ideally be located in a very visual spot downtown and would be big enough for office space as well as some exhibit and performance space. It wouldn’t substitute for the main performing arts space, which is a separate goal of the committee, but it would serve as a visually active and event-oriented administrative center.

Providing a combination of full and part-time staff to carry out Arts Council functions would allow the artists in Yellow Springs to spend more energy creating and collaborating rather than getting bogged down by the demands of running a nonprofit group, Housh said. And that staff could focus not only on supporting existing artists, but also on bringing creative ideas and artists from outside Yellow Springs into the village to share their work through lectures, workshops or perhaps an artist residency program, Carlson said.

“This has the potential to help bring about an increase in the creative vitality of Yellow Springs that will be a real benefit to artists and the community as a whole,” she said.

While the Arts Council works towards its goals, the steering committee is making progress on its overall plan to create a Center for the Arts, Carlson said. Still under the guidance of Minneapolis-based consultants Tom Borrup and George Sutton, the steering committee is halfway through the second phase of its plan to assess, using local and outside experts, the feasibility and cost of renovating facilities such as the Little Art Theatre and strengthening arts organizations such as Arts Council. The committee plans to present a report on its findings with recommendations for renovations and uses to the community in September.

Arts Council and the steering committee members are also working together to envision a summer arts and innovation festival, which is envisioned to be an annual exposition featuring creative innovation in Yellow Springs. Still evolving, this summer’s festival will be an art and service youth program including a mural workshop for the library’s teen space, giant puppet making for the 4th of July parade and a Skate Art Music Festival with leadership opportunities for high schoolers. The collaboration between Arts Council, YSKP, Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce, Glen Helen, WYSO and possibly the Yellow Springs Writer’s Workshop to create the festival is a model of the kind of connections Arts Council hopes to promote in the future, Housh said.

Task force members helping to implement some of these cross-organizational goals include Housh and Joanne Caputo, from Arts Council, and Jamie Sharp, Luke Dennis and Carlson from the steering committee.

To find out about scheduling for the Arts Council/steering committee space, contact Carlson, 767-2954, or Housh, 767-1107.

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