Alliance provides lifeline to Bartow's arts community
by Marie Nesmith
Sep 08, 2013 | 1833 views | 0 0 comments | 61 61 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As Kindermusik Educator Katie Hurley prompted toddlers to wiggle their fingers and toes, The Arts Center was filled with an abundance of smiles and creative energy Wednesday. A music and movement program for parents and their young children, the Cartersville resident said, Kindermusik enhances a youth’s cognitive, emotional, social, musical, linguistic and physical development.

“In class we do a variety of things,” Hurley said. “We sing. We dance. We play with instruments. We do lots of rhymes and lots of pretending, and that’s all to further their development. It’s just that we happen to use music sort of as the vessel. One of my favorite aspects of the classes is that they are social in nature and most of the time we’re dealing with children who have not yet been in preschool or, if they are in preschool, then the parent does not accompany them to preschool. So it’s a really unique forum for the parent to get to see, ‘How is my child doing in this area, how are they doing socially, how are they playing with others, how are they sharing, how are they playing with instruments?’

“... I see a lot of growth in the children certainly because I usually have them for 15 weeks — that’s the length of a normal semester. It’s very typical over those 15 weeks to see shy kids really start to come out of their shell and be more comfortable in groups of their peers. It’s also very common to see children that are explorers start to conform a little bit more to what the group is doing. So it kind of has a stabilizing effect on all of the children, in a way.”

Like other members of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Cartersville-Bartow County Inc., Hurley is able to utilize The Arts Center at no charge. While organizations, such as Kindermusik with Katie Hurley and the Bartow County Genealogical Society house their operations at the CAA’s building — 101 N. Erwin St. in Cartersville — others, including The Pumphouse Players, StageWorks and the Main Street Writer’s Association, often gather for rehearsals or meetings. Calling The Arts Center home since July 2005, the CAA — comprised of about 20 arts-related organizations and individuals — helps maintain and has full usage of the building that is owned by the city of Cartersville.

“The Arts Center gives us the perfect opportunity to be, most of the time, the very first experience that children have in a formal setting with music and the arts — and language arts is included in that because we do lots and lots of rhymes [and] lots and lots of poems [that] are a part of our classes every week,” Hurley said. “So I’d say, for me, what stands out as the Cultural Arts Alliance’s sort of role in that is that they are providing an environment where children and babies can get some of their very first formal experiences with the arts in our community.

“[Being involved with the Cultural Arts Alliance] means a great deal to me because certainly this is my passion and impacting children’s brain growth and development through music and the arts is 100 percent what I’m passionate about. So it means a lot to me for that reason, but also I feel like it shows that Cartersville and Bartow County have a commitment to the arts and to making sure that the children in Cartersville and Bartow are provided with a place where they can come for those early arts experiences. And I think that shows a real commitment to not only provide adults in the community with opportunities for the arts but also certainly babies and young children.”

Formed in 1993, the CAA helps promote Bartow’s arts organizations by providing information and access to their facility, and distributing grants with funds received from the county and city of Cartersville. To be eligible for financial assistance, the arts-related entities need to be a nonprofit, CAA member located in Bartow. In August, the CAA dispersed operational grants — totaling $51,000 from the city of Cartersville — to the seven groups that applied: ACT I, The Pumphouse Players, StageWorks, Cartersville City Ballet, Steps of Faith Dance Company, Bartow County Genealogical Society and Stiles-Akin Camp No. 670 Sons of Confederate Veterans. With this being the first distribution installment, CAA President Julie Reeves — who also is the artistic director for Steps of Faith — hopes the organizations will receive a second round of assistance when additional local government funds become available.

With the economic downturn impacting the majority of these organizations since 2007, the CAA-distributed grants are providing a lifeline of support as the groups try to regain their financial footing.

“As far as grants and fundraising, sponsorships, donations, things like that, we have not seen a turnaround yet,” said Mike Harris, president of The Pumphouse Players, a community theater group based at The Legion Theatre in Cartersville. “Governmental grants have been reduced and that affects us directly, but also there is a great deal of difficulty in obtaining sponsorships from small businesses, who, even though they may see their income on a slight upswing, are still not confident enough to actually buy ads and give us contributions. ... Our volunteer-base [also] is finding it harder and harder to donate their time to us. That is directly the result of increased pressures on employees and families to stay extra hours at their job or perhaps work two jobs or perhaps travel more. So what I’m also seeing in addition to the dollars not coming in is it’s becoming more and more of a struggle to get volunteers to come in due to just simply the obligations of their real job.

“The city and county grants that come in through the Cultural Arts Alliance are what is keeping us alive right now. We could not make it on ticket sales alone. We are a small theater and we simply cannot sell enough tickets based on the number of seats in our auditorium to pay the lease and the utility bills and the insurance and royalty fees and everything that goes into theater. Ticket sales are a substantial part of our income, but they would not allow us to stay in business without these grants.”

Along with impacting the arts organizations financially, Reeves said, the economic downturn also has decreased the amount of grant money the CAA receives from municipalities. This also has resulted in the Cultural Arts Alliance not being able to distribute project grants on a regular basis or sponsor various community events.

“There was plenty of money coming through the government donations — the city of Cartersville and Bartow County — that helped fund so much of the arts community but over time some of those donations have come down and also the expenses have risen,” Reeves said. “Arts are an elective in life. ... It’s not vital to life but at the same time, I do believe that it is vital to a healthy community because arts open up a side of the brain that nothing else can. And I do think it’s important that the community stay involved and they are. One thing that I have noticed is that Cartersville/Bartow County is unusual in the fact that the arts community is so thriving. ... There’s a lot of performing arts groups here in town.

“Have we all struggled? Yes. The economy did hit us hard and it’s been something that all of us have been needing more help with. There’s more of us going out and asking for help with certain events. Will you underwrite this? Will you sponsor this? And the purpose of the Cultural Arts Alliance is to be a central location for that. [It] is the reason it was even put together years and years ago by Don Kordecki and some others, so it wasn’t all of us knocking on the bank’s door asking for money — that a bank could just contribute to the Cultural Arts Alliance and we would go through a grant process, see who needs the operating money and divide it out. That’s what we do, but now we don’t have enough money. We used to be able to fund everybody all they needed.”

To help supplement the grant monies, the CAA is reaching out to the community for assistance.

“We’ll probably give out maybe 80 [percent or] 82 percent of what has been asked for, assuming that we get all the grant money in ... that we expect,” Reeves said. “That’s the reason we actually have started a letter-writing campaign this summer. We sent out about 30 letters to some major businesses here in town asking for their support for the arts community. As [of today], we’ve had no response, which is very disappointing. But the reason we’re doing that is that we aren’t getting enough money — tax money, which is through the city of Cartersville and Bartow County to offset all the expenses.

“We’re an all volunteer organization. The city of Cartersville has given us this building ... but there are some things we’ll have to pay for,” she said, referring to expenses, such as maintenance repairs. “So we do keep some money for that but we try to give most of it away to these arts organizations that are trying to impact the community. ... Bartow County and Cartersville has so much to offer as far as theaters, live performances, art galleries. We have so much to offer that I don’t want to see that ever go to waste.”

For more information about the CAA, visit www.cartersvillearts.com or email culturalartsalliance@gmail.com.