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Local arts council ready to be redrawn
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It’s been several years since Effingham County had an arts council, but a group of community leaders says it’s time to build it again.  

Chairwoman Marsha Lott said Bill Streed of Guyton had an arts council started many years ago and had a good organization.

“They put on art exhibits and festivals and really gathered a great group of local artists and performers,” she said. “Maybe the timing just wasn’t right then, but with the growth of Rincon and the rest of the county, I believe there is a lot of interest in the arts here now.”

Lott is joined by a number of community leaders in re-establishing the council. Effingham Schools Assistant Superintendent Gregg Arnsdorff will serve as vice chairman and Citizens Bank VP Barbara Oglesby will be secretary/treasurer for the group. Other board members will include Norma Jean Morgan, Tess Hynes of the Effingham Chamber,  Rincon city planner LaMeisha Hunter, Rick Terrell of Coca Cola, Andrea Huff of the Effingham Community Orchestra and Tamara Tyre with the Effingham Theatre.

Plans for the board call for a few more members and for ex-officio seats for each of the Effingham cities and for the county and the IDA.

Rick Lott, who has been a non-profit executive director for nearly 20 years, said he thinks there is a great desire for more arts programming in the area. He said the vision for this new arts council is to grow to the point where not only will the council itself provide programming throughout the county, but that it would grow to the point where it can help fund some of the other arts organizations already working in the county.

“I would like to be able to provide some funding to the community orchestra, the Effingham Theatre, and even to some of our individual performers and artists,” he said.

Board members believe one reason it had been difficult in the past for an arts council to thrive was a lack of governmental support. The group has just filed with the state Secretary of State for reinstatement of the Arts Council and once that’s done, plans to file with the IRS for 501c3 non profit status so it can apply for arts grants.

In the meantime, they are working closely with the Springfield Revitalization Corporation as it begins plans to restore the historic Mars Theatre in Springfield. The facility is planned to become a center for the performing and visual arts for the county and that’s the link between the two groups.

“The SRC’s interest really is in preserving the Mars Theatre building,”said Oglesby, a member of both the SRC and the arts council, “and that having a group that can provide programming in the facility as well as in other areas of the county is a natural fit.”

Rick Lott said he hopes that Rincon, Springfield, Guyton and the county will agree with the mission of the council and find some seed money to enable it to enhance the quality of life county-wide. He said the group plans to work on programming of arts exhibits, festivals, and performances in each of the cities, even before the Mars is open.

“When most people think of arts, they think of paintings that they do not understand the meaning behind or an opera where they do not understand the words being sung,” Hunter said. “In truth, arts can be anything. It is not only a showing of local paintings and sculptures, but it is also youth bands, local dancers of different genres, gospel concerts, and spoken word artists. It is jazz, bluegrass, gospel, classical, rock, hip-hop, and other categories of music.  

“You can even look at art as it is centered around a particular place, like Historic Ebenezer, Honey Ridge, the Ogeechee and Savannah rivers, or even a local establishment like Butterducks Winery. It is important that Effingham County have an arts council so that we will have a medium to help plan and implement activities that showcase local talent. The arts council will also focus on bringing programs and artists into the county, which would not only provide educational and entertainment activities, but would also be good for the economy.”

The group plans to start a membership drive soon, building on the original membership roles and expanding from there. Membership levels will be geared to individuals, families and businesses.