Arts Council retools programming
by Anna Oakes
A new local artists’
gift shop is among several new initiatives the Watauga County Arts Council is launching as it
continues to evaluate current programs and explore new opportunities.
Four months after ending its 26-year contractual relationship with the town of
Boone and moving out of the Jones House, the nonprofit has opened a new office at the Appalachian
Enterprise Center and a new gallery space and gift shop at 798 W. King St. in downtown
The organization is also redesigning its school and
community outreach programs.
“We are looking
at this period as a golden opportunity to take a look at who we serve, the needs which are being
met (or not being met) and how we’re approaching them,” said Cherry Johnson, executive
director of the Arts Council.
Gift shop and
The gift shop — a longtime dream of the Watauga Arts Council, Johnson
said — opened last week, outfitted with shelving, sales counters and racks donated to the
organization years ago.
“It’s up; it’s
running,” Johnson said Friday. “We had a private opening last night for our high-level
donors.” The gift shop features works by artists from Watauga or adjoining counties,
including CDs, books, baskets, small paintings, gift cards, pottery, jewelry, handbags and
“You name it, it’s
there,” she said. For now, the gift shop will be open during gallery hours on Friday,
Saturday and Sunday, but “we are working on ways to expand the hours,” Johnson
This month’s exhibitions feature works by Cheap
Joe’s Art Stuff employees in the main gallery and an exhibit by Peggy Lane in the
Serendipity Gallery. The Arts Council hosts monthly receptions for the exhibits in conjunction with
the First Friday Art Crawl and is currently accepting applications for 2013 exhibitions from
artists in Watauga or adjoining counties.
The gallery is staffed
by volunteers and is currently open on Friday from 12 to 6 p.m., Saturday from 12 to 6 p.m. and
Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m.
The council is also revamping its programs in local schools. Appalachian State
University is able to offer a number of performances to area school students through its own
outreach programs, and the council doesn’t want to duplicate existing efforts, said
Instead, the council plans to revive a program from the past called the
Mountain Arts Program, which offers schools the option to host artists for an affordable weeklong
Thanks to new
requirements for state Grassroots Grants funding and a grant from the Blowing Rock Tour of Homes,
the Watauga Arts Council has funding available to cover the costs of these residencies.
“We will put them in county schools for $650 for a week,” Johnson
In the case of Grassroots Grants, which require a 50 percent match, schools
can easily satisfy the match requirement by housing the artist in a local home for the
A deadline to apply for funding for artist residencies at local schools will
be in late October and will be announced soon, she said.
Another longtime goal
of the Arts Council has been to provide business-oriented workshops for artists, and the
Appalachian Enterprise Center, with its conference room, is an ideal location for them, said
Johnson. Artists have also expressed an interest in hosting workshops on particular crafts to the
public. A schedule of workshops will be announced in the coming weeks.
Johnson said she would like to see more classes for senior citizens in
assisted living and nursing home facilities.
The council is also
assessing needs that are already being met.
The town of Boone has
contracted with former Arts Council Folklorist Mark Freed to continue the schedule of musical
performances in the Jones House summer concert series, a program the Arts Council started, and town
officials have indicated they plan to continue offering the series in the future. Many other towns
and venues now offer regular outdoor concert series in the summer, Johnson noted.
“When we started that, there were none. We were the first ones,” she
said. “We’re just looking at the overall picture and saying, ‘If we don’t
need to put our energy there, where do we need to put it?’”
Arts Council board is set to discuss a method for community input, likely in the form of a survey,
at its next meeting.
“We really do want to know what
people think the needs are,” Johnson said. “Where are the holes that are not being
filled?” The council also wants to increase partnerships with communities outside of
Because the Arts Council no longer has a contract from the town of Boone to
manage the Jones House, the board has worked to redesign its budget.
“We’re not rushing,” Johnson said. “We want to take our
time and do it right.” Membership contributions, at this point in the fiscal year, are up
compared with the same time period in previous years, Johnson noted, but the organization needs
additional members, donations and volunteers. Members receive benefits such as discounts at local
businesses and special private events.
The council’s most
significant obstacle has been educating the public about the location of its new gallery, said
Johnson, as many still are not aware it is there.
has a new website and is sponsoring two new competitions this fall. The deadline for the Farm-City
photography competition is Sept. 24, and the Christmas card design competition deadline is Sept.
For more information, call (828) 264-1789 or visit http://www.watauga-arts.org.