Grant to boost arts in area

June 26, 2007

By AMANDA BUCK - Bulletin Staff Writer

Projects in schools, sculptures, murals planned

The Harvest Foundation on Monday announced a $263,000 grant for Piedmont Arts Association designed to ignite interest in and improve access to the arts in Henry County and Martinsville.

The grant, which will be used over about three years, will fund increased community and school-based projects for children; putting artwork in public spaces in the area; and expanding exhibition space in the arts association's building on Starling Avenue, according to PAA Executive Director Peter Calvert.

"It's very substantial funding, and we're thrilled that they've (Harvest Foundation officials) recognized what kind of work we've been doing," Calvert said. "We're trying to make Martinsville a place that's really a destination and a quality community. It's got so many great pieces of the puzzle and just needs a boost."

About half of the grant will be used to expand arts programs in local schools, including school theater performances and professional traveling productions, according to Calvert and a press release from The Harvest Foundation.

Other projects will be targeted at adults and others throughout the community, including the installation of outdoor sculptures and murals in public places.

"The impact of arts is an integral component of a healthy, thriving and culturally diverse community," Harvest Foundation Executive Director Rich Killingsworth said in the release. "The arts become the 'stuff' by which cities become great places ... a place that people cherish, value and invest in."

The new programs will allow Piedmont Arts to leave its traditional setting and go out into the community, Killingsworth said.

One of the ways it will do that is through the sculpture project, scheduled to begin this summer. Local sculptors and some from others areas will display their work for up to a year in various places around the city, Calvert said.

"We are working to identify the sites," he said. "Some will be in green places where people can have a nice relationship with nature and art; others will be uptown where people are doing activities ... to inspire their day."

Between 10 and 12 sculptures are planned during Piedmont Arts' 2007-08 fiscal year, which begins July 1, Calvert said.

The mural project, aimed both at putting art into the community and involving diverse groups in its creation, should begin this fall.

"That will allow us to really showcase a lot of the great talent around here," Calvert said. Piedmont Arts will "work with youth and adults to create more visual stimulation for people as they are around town."

Locations for the murals have not been settled on yet, but Calvert said there are "certainly a lot of walls uptown that are of interest."

In addition, Piedmont Arts plans to renovate space within its building to create more room for exhibits and a "media room" in which video clips or other multimedia presentations can be viewed, Calvert said.

Among school programs that will be expanded is Minds in Motion, a partnership between Piedmont Arts and the Richmond Ballet that brings dance instruction into local schools. The program, which will enter its eighth year this fall, has involved only city school children in the past.

The grant will allow Minds in Motion to expand to the county, beginning with a pilot program at Sanville Elementary School this fall, Calvert said.

"Over the years we've built some exceptional in-school programs," he said. The Harvest Foundation's support will allow Piedmont Arts to continue those programs while strengthening them and involving "more students than we ever have in the past," Calvert added.

Calvert and Killingsworth said they are excited to work together to help make Henry County and Martinsville a "community of choice."

"We're really excited about the chance to be out in the community," Calvert said. "All of us believe in art so much and how it's able to transform lives and make lives better."

The public artwork will show people that "this community is alive and functioning at a high level," Killingsworth said.

"It sends a strong message not only to residents here but to the surrounding area that Martinsville is on the go," he said.


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