Volunteers providing a base for local cultural arts program

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By David Meade

The Town of Williamston and supporters of the arts are moving forward with plans to establish a Cultural Arts Center and program in the Williamston area and local volunteers are helping make it happen.

The Williamston Cultural Arts Center will be housed in the National Guard Armory building recently acquired by the town, while the establishment of a performing and cultural arts program is gaining support in the community. During their September meeting, Williamston Town Council unanimously approved a proclamation supporting a cultural arts center that could be based in the armory building.

Williamston Mayor Mack Durham had proposed use of the building to possibly house a cultural arts center for some time prior to the building and property officially being turned over to the town.

During that same meeting, Council heard a presentation by Fountain Inn Economic Development Director Van Broad on how cultural arts programs and events have led to economic development in Fountain Inn.

Broad explained that prior to establishment of the arts programs, sixty percent of Fountain Inn’s downtown buildings were vacant and very few people came downtown.

Since the performing cultural arts program has begun, the town now has a ninety five percent occupancy rate and has from 500 to 2000 people, or more visit the downtown area on a weekend, Broad said.

Fountain Inn renovated an old school building which now houses a variety of performing arts programs and events.

rsz_img_2771resThe arts program in Williamston has the support of local artists including nationally known portrait artist, Michael Del Priore, Mary Catherine Smith, Thomas Addison and others.

Del Priore, who lives in the Fork Shoals area, has portraits which can be found in state capitols, state supreme courts, universities, boardrooms and private collections.

Smith is a local artist who is working with the mayor and others to make a Cultural Arts Center. She is offering her talents and skills in oil painting to work with art teacher Thomas Addison on a program which encourages artistic talent in local artists.

In a meeting with the GWBA Tuesday, Smith said there is a lot of local talent and she and others hope to encourage and showcase local artists through the Williamston based arts program.

She said that supporters of the program are working on getting tax exempt status for the organization and that they plan to have art shows and possibly an Art in the Park event.

GWBA members also offered support for the program Tuesday, with a $200 pledge.

Mayor Durham has said there is support in the community for the arts and that an arts center can help Williamston become a destination town.

A recent artists reception held in the Williamston Municipal Center drew a good crowd who came to offer support for an arts program in the area.

The Pink Room was filled with displays of artwork by local artists and students.

According to the Mayor, the Williamston Cultural Arts program will include visual and performing arts events and programs including classes, art shows, musical and theatrical performances and other related activities.