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Center for arts strides ahead

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The many hands involved in the effort to build a Yellow Springs Center for the Arts have been busy lately and are preparing to roll out a string of announcements about their plans to dust off and shine up the arts efforts in the village. Without giving away details too many and too early, arts center organizers Jerome Borchers, Laura Carlson and Tom Borrup recently presented a sneak peak at some upcoming project news that will help break the doldrums of late winter: the naming of the new arts center facility space, the Little Art Theatre’s reinforcement plans, a new business model for YS Kids Playhouse, a reigniting of the Yellow Springs Arts Council, and a sculpture competition to launch a master plan for public art in the village.

“It’s like we’ve finally decided to get pregnant,” Carlson said in an interview on the art center’s progress last week. While a majority of the projects are already maturing, organizers hope that the unveiling of concrete plans will lead to the implementation and funding of the community’s art center.

The efforts of the arts committee has been ongoing for over three years this summer, thanks to a large group of volunteers and a grant from the Morgan Family Foundation that funded in three installments the service of Minneapolis-based arts consultants Tom Borrup and George Sutton and project coordinator Laura Carlson. The group began the effort in three phases, beginning with visioning, then planning and finally fundraising. With the final plans on the eve of their unveiling, the committee anticipates spending the latter part of the year organizing a capital campaign to finance the renovation, construction and organizational changes that the community, through public participation, has said it needs.

Some of the Yellow Springs Center for the Arts steering committee members have been involved since the art center effort’s inception, and others have gotten involved within the last year. But all of them, including chair Jerome Borchers and vice-chair Jane Baker, Mary Campbell-Zopf, Luke Dennis, John Fleming, Paul Graham, Ellis Jacobs, Amy Lee, Rob Lytle, Gayle Rominger and Jamie Sharp, are working to keep a dozen projects in the air at once and to coordinate their integration as part of the overall center for the arts plan.

One such project is the revitalization of the Yellow Springs Arts Council, whose ultimate goal is to replace the Center for the Arts steering committee as the core of the local arts community, around which all the spokes rotate. The YSAC’s new board is currently revamping its mission statement and aims to advocate for and help fund and sustain the arts in Yellow Springs, Carlson said. The group is also working to fill the calendar with another Summer in the Springs through new partnerships with local entities such as Antioch University McGregor, which hosts the MIIND lecture series each summer.

Likely the most anticipated new step is the naming of the new arts center facility, which the steering committee hopes to announce in March. Carlson would only say that the facility is a space not currently used for the arts. Also in March, YSKP will present a new business plan for the children’s theater group, and sometime in February, the Little Art Theatre will announce its plans for future sustainability.

The steering committee and YSAC have also come up with a master plan for public art in the village, which will likely be unveiled sometime in April for public comment. The effort, led by local artists Jon Hudson, Brian Maughan and Nancy Mellon, will begin in February with a call for submissions to a sculpture competition whose winning entry will be the first public art piece to be included in the master plan.

Despite the challenges that the village as a whole has faced with the closure of Antioch College, the Village manager’s unexpected departure last summer and the failing economy, the effort to envision a center that fills the community’s needs has been continuous and committed, Borrup said. And the need for a performing arts facility only increased after Antioch’s campus became unavailable, Carlson said.

“With a project that involves the whole community with a lot of history, a lot of momentum and a lot of moving parts, it can be tough to get all the parts going in the same direction together,” Borrup said. “But ever since the community meetings at the church, there’s been a lot of forward motion and consistent movement,” he said, referring to the forum at the Presbyterian Church in early 2007, when villagers first voiced what they wanted in an arts center.

The ideas now coming together are the culmination of a lot of people working for and with each other toward a common goal, and it hasn’t been easy, Borchers said. But knowing that the partnerships were just as important as the mission, participants waited for each other and made forward strides together. And the coordinated effort has made all the difference, as villagers will see for themselves in the coming months, organizers said.

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