Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Real Authentic Full Service Arts Center

Last year I was asked to serve as a member of the Board for our local fine arts center. I was flattered and have enjoyed my tenure. The Orangeburg Center for Fine Arts is in a historic building leased from the city located in the city's lovely gardens on the banks of the Edisto River. It is truly a lovely setting. Most folks in town know there is an "Arts Center" and know where it is. Unfortunately, most folks are not aware of all the center offers - but I'll address that later.

One of my first surprises when I got involved with the Arts Center was to learn that the local League of Arts was independent of the center. Ok, I thought, they were a separate entity supporting the arts. But I assumed they worked with the Arts Center. I soon learned I was wrong.

One morning I was dismayed, well shocked, OK, I was P#$$@! when I opened the town's paper to see an article on the front page interviewing the president of the League of Arts touting that they had been given a building in town that they were redoing to become their home - the new "Arts Center". What the heck? The article went on to talk about what they intended to do to the building (which is in horrendous shape), what they intended to offer to the public after they redid the building, and how important they were to the city for their support and development of artists. Naturally, they failed to mention one very "small" fact - that the city already had a well established Arts Center. How did the reporter fail to ask that question, "Don't we already have an Arts Center?" 

Naturally, those supporting the "real" existing Arts Center were atwitter with comments. What were they thinking? Now the citizens had to be confused. And to make it worse, we had been quietly working for months preparing to launch a major fundraising campaign to update the (real) Arts Center, fix some major structural issues, and make it more user friendly so we could better serve our public. In order to make sure the campaign was successful, the  board had taken the time to gather the data, information, and bids necessary for the work we wanted done. We had identified the local, state, and federal entities we needed to approach for funds and were preparing the appropriate documents they would need. 

What we had now was total confusion. Local citizens assumed that the "League of Arts" was part of or was the "Arts Center".  And we feared that the assumption would be that the article was referring to a new "Arts Center" replacing the current one. We were stunned. The timing was horrible, just as we were getting ready to launch our campaign and reveal our plans (which were long range, professionally prepared, and well thought out versus harem scarum last minute "we plan to paint the building and make it an Arts Center" as the others proposed). 

We soon learned the building (a lovely old home) they had been given had been vacant since 2000 and had been on the market for years. The owner had been unable to sell it due to severe fire damage and structural issues. It was going to take a lot of money to get the building up to code, much less designed and decorated for their needs. And the league has a rather small membership.

On the other hand, the OCFAC has a healthy membership we have had for years (that continues to grow), an active large board, and an ongoing budget. We have a gallery that showcases a different artists' work each month. The large gallery is used for civic meetings, social gatherings, and public events. Art and music lessons are constantly being given to students. We are a vibrant organization that serves the community. We have a history, a track record, and a plan to be able to offer even more to area citizens. In short we are the Arts Center.

Like a well bred lady we will carry on. We will stay above the fray. The truth will carry day. In a year or two the Arts Center will be facility the city and its people will be proud of and there will be no confusion any longer. 

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