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Art district in Jasper’s future?

Some say it could strengthen Pickens’ creative scene


    Sharptop Arts Association treasurer Dick Carlton (r) speaking at the non-profit’s February meeting held at the Sharptop gallery on D.B. Carroll Street in downtown Jasper.

    At this point the idea is barely in its infancy with no formal plans for execution, but at the Sharptop Art Association’s February member meeting both Sharptop leaders and members tossed around the notion of developing an art district in the downtown Jasper area to bolster the art community here.

    Seeds for the concept of an arts district arose from what has been described by arts and culture leaders as ongoing difficulty getting strong public support for arts-related events in Pickens.
    Michal Brock, who is part of a temporary transitional board at Sharptop, mentioned brining local arts groups together both geographically and collaboratively as a possibility for a long-term development strategy for the non-profit.        
    Sharptop’s new treasurer, Stearns Bank Georgia President Dick Carlton, said from a business perspective a more cohesive art scene would make it easier for patrons to support the arts.
    “The one thing that intrigues me the most as a business person is a consolidation of the arts because it makes it so much easier when you go out to ask for funds if it’s one time,” Carlton said. “If I get multiple requests, one from Bent Tree, one from Big Canoe, one from Sharptop, one from [Pickens Arts & Cultural Alliance], I scratch my head. But if it’s just one time then I can make a $500 donation and it goes to help the entire county. It makes it so much easier to raise funds, and to do what you want to do you have to have those funds available.”
    According to Amelia McIntrye of the Pickens Arts & Cultural Alliance - an organization created by the Pickens County government to support arts in the county - unification of some kind also makes it more likely for arts groups to receive grants from Georgia Council for the Arts if they demonstrate a strong network of support in the community.
    Indecently, the previous evening PACA held their own member meeting. Following board elections, representatives from various arts and cultural groups in the community participated in a collaboration workshop. Groups were asked to come up with collaborative ideas, with prizes going to the best collaborations. The winning idea a video being created in which arts groups in the county discussed offerings, with the video to be distributed through various outlets.
    One Sharptop member called for more support from city and county governments, as well as the possibility of using local facilities for shows to build up revenue for the art center.
    “Pickens High School sits vacant and we paid plenty of taxes to build that,” he said, noting that it and other facilities in the county could be used by Sharptop at a lower rental fee so the art center put on larger events. The man pointed to Roswell’s arts center, which hosts shows outside of their facility as a revenue generator.
    The man also said having backing from the city and country are crucial.
    Former Sharptop board member Jane Davis agreed, saying that for years Sharptop “has received little support from county commissioners or the mayor,” she said.   
    Sharptop transitional board member Beth Hayes pointed to last week’s proclamation signing, which declared the week of March 15 “Pickens Goes Green for SAA, Youth Art Month, and the Pickens County Animal Shelter,” which was attended by commissioner Rob Jones, Jasper Mayor John Weaver, and representatives of local law enforcement and the animal shelter.
    “This is a step in the right direction,” Hayes said.
    In the meantime, Sharptop is on the hunt for strong leadership at the art center in anticipation of the transitional board completing its task of evaluating and improving Sharptop’s internal operations.
    “We just need a little help because we don’t have those influential contacts in our cell phones,” Brock said of the committee. "We didn't grow up here, or go to school here. If we can just get more local people interested and who want to project themselves into Sharptop, there is so much potential her to create something wonderful.”

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