Area arts councils succeed at bucking slow economy

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Arts councils in Cape Girardeau and Jackson are expected to continue to thrive in 2004 in spite of hindrances presented by a slow economy. Scott City doesn't have an arts council so Southeast art professor Paul Schock opened his own community arts center in 2003.

The Arts Council of Southeast Missouri made "a huge leap" in 2003 when it found a new home on Main Street in Cape Girardeau, executive director Rebecca Fulgham says.

The new building put the arts council in the most central location downtown, and the extra space enabled the organization to begin a Visual Arts Cooperative, which displays the work of member artists.

"The co-op has been so successful that we have over 30 artists waiting to get in," Fulgham said. "It is such a revelation to realize how many talented people are in this region."

The building now shared with a maternity store used to be Chrisman Outfitters Sporting Goods and Wildlife Art. It was vacant for about a year before the council moved in. According to Fulgham, the local merchants are happy the building is now occupied and happy "that it is not a bar." The council had been located in a smaller building at Spanish and Independence streets since February 1997.

JacksonThe Jackson Area Arts Council, which formed in 2001, continues to grow. Its mission is to "promote opportunities for visual and performing artists in the area," said Jackson Parks and Recreation director Shane Anderson.

Special events in 2004 will include Art in the Park on July 4 and the Uptown Art Show during Homecomers Week Aug. 17 to 21.

Last year for the first time, the Jackson organization promoted the BYOC (Bring Your Own Chair) Sunday Showcase. It is a summer series of performances by local talent.

Children in grades 1-12 exhibit their work in the City Hall display windows throughout the year and mural painting is featured in the park, as well as on the side of the Andrew Jackson Building.

Starcatchers Community Theatre holds performances throughout the year in Jackson. Starcatchers formed about the same time as the Jackson Area Arts Council. Ann Swanson was one of its main organizers.

"Ann Swanson is a great mind at work," Anderson said.

Since its beginnings in the 1960s as the Christian Arts Council, the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri has been on a mission to promote the arts throughout the community.

Events sponsored by the arts council include music, theater and dance as well as paintings and sculpture.

"The first thing I would want to emphasize is that the mission of the arts council is to promote all the arts, not just visual arts," said Fulgham, also the executive director of that organization.

Fulgham currently is writing a request for funding to bring in a theater troupe that can provide workshops to local schoolchildren.

Event for childrenEach year the Children's Arts Festival provides a multidisciplinary event for children in December. The Southeast Chamber Ensemble provides recorded music for all public school art and music teachers. While the music is playing, children create images suggested by the music. The art is then hung in the gallery of the arts council, where the children stand beside their work and autograph programs for delighted patrons.

The uncertain economy makes planning any major increase of services difficult, Fulgham said, but added, "I can't say enough about the support from our community. It has really stepped up to the plate."

Much of the support for the arts council comes from its 302 members, who include students, adults, families and businesses in Cape Girardeau and surrounding communities. Some state funding has been available but has decreased recently.

The holiday craft fair held the weekend before Thanksgiving and located at the Show Me Center and the Osage Community Center provides more than 50 percent of the operating budget.

Coming soon is the fourth annual ArtsCape Fine Arts & Crafts Street Festival May 22.

Progress in the arts is "only limited by funding and time, Fulgham said. "It truly has been extraordinary that in tough economic times we've been able to do something like this." Local artist Brad Elfrink appreciates the support of the Arts Council. "If it wasn't for the Arts Council, people wouldn't realize that there are so many talented artists in this area," said Elfrink, whose work and picture recently were displayed in the arts council storefront window. The Visual Arts Cooperative "is the first real opportunity local artists have had for a venue to show their artwork, and it's very important," he said.

"... It's nice that they spotlight local artists. So many galleries that you walk in show work of artists from other places. It's hard for an artist on his own to see any success with what they do unless they have encouragement and a place to show their work." To contact the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, phone (573) 334-9233, e-mail or go to

The Southeast Missouri State University River Campus also making strides toward contributing to the progress of the arts in the region. The university is currently recruiting students for the new facility, anticipating growth, developing special promotional materials and new scholarships.

"The River Campus is on schedule, with some compromises because of cost," said Pat Reagan, chairwoman of the Southeast Missouri State Art Department. "They are moving from the schematic plan to the interior of the building and how each of the rooms will be outfitted." The River Campus will have three large performance halls, and is expected to attract top-notch talent.

Work on the River Campus is scheduled possibly to begin this year. The performing arts center is scheduled to open at the beginning of 2007.

Paul Schock's art center hosted art exhibitions, dance performances and concerts in its first year of operation in Scott City. His students also painted murals on the exterior wall of a florist shop in Scott City.

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