Story By Jo Ann Mathews
Visitors and residents anticipate swaying to the sounds of popular bands such as Northern Border, The Imitations and Continental Divide when Concerts on the Coast begins its season Memorial Day weekend.
Brunswick Little Theatre expanded its venue to Playhouse 211 in Southport and will offer its outdoor concert, “Songs from the Great American Songbook,” at Franklin Square Park in May.
Oak Island Art Guild offers monthly workshops in various media. Communities In Schools gives students the opportunity to express their creativity at school.
Few people realize that the all-volunteer Brunswick Arts Council (BAC), which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, assists these groups and more than a dozen others with funds for their programs.
“We provided $45,000 in grants last year,” says Gary Halberstadt of Ocean Isle Beach, former president of the group.
BAC’s behind-the-scenes funding helps artists and art organizations in Brunswick County accomplish their goals and reach new heights.
“A strong regional economy begins with the arts,” says Jonathan Tait of Leland, president of Grants and Development for BAC. “We look for ways to bring Brunswick County’s artists to the forefront, and, by doing so, we hope to increase tourism and bring new residents and businesses to our area.”
Halberstadt was instrumental in creating five of the six divisions thatmake up the council. The BAC’s divisions consist of (1) Literary, which promotes writing and authors; (2) Visual Arts, which concentrates on painting, sculpture, photography, fiber and glass; (3) Performing Arts, which centers on stage, sound, lighting, music, ballet, opera and individual performance; (4) Multicultural Programs, which works with division presidents and the community to incorporate other cultures in the programming; (5) Art Education, which provides scholarships and programs for students and integrates the arts in the curriculum at Brunswick County Academy; and, created in 2010, (6) Grants and Development, which seeks grants, develops programming and dispenses monies for programs. Each division has a president who is responsible for implementing a specific mission.
For example, BAC provided two grants to Brunswick Little Theatre to upgrade its microphones. “We needed lavalieres so the cast could move around while talking, singing and dancing,” says Thom Clemmons of Oak Island, president of Brunswick Little Theatre.
“Without good mics, actors and singers cannot be heard in Odell Williamson Auditorium and in our outside performances.”
The biggest accomplishment of BAC is maintaining its funding from the North Carolina Arts Council’s Grassroots Arts Program, says Leland resident Jeanette Serens, current BAC president. BAC is the designated partner of North Carolina Arts Council to distribute Grassroots Arts Program funds, which provides grants for local nonprofit organizations.
As president of the Grants and Development division, one of Tait’s primary responsibilities is to submit a new grassroots grant each year. This grant, which comes from the N.C. Arts Council, accounts for nearly 50 percent of the revenue that BAC dispenses.
Other revenue comes from fund-raisers and private donors. The BAC’s annual fund-raiser, Miniature Masterpieces, will be held on May 20 at the Brunswick County Realtors Building in Supply (see sidebar).
Another BAC initiative that brings attention to local artists is the Brunswick County Art Show and Sale Exhibition. This includes a wide range of two-dimensional and three-dimensional artwork and photography. Recognized state arts professionals judge the works. The 11th annual show will take place October 17 to 29 at Franklin Square Gallery in Southport.
BAC Treasurer JoAnnStaat of Oak Island explains that monies from grants and fund-raisers provide grants to local artists, authors, musicians and others in the arts. Staat and Serens both say that BAC also is grateful for the backing of Brunswick County Commissioners, who allocated money for the BAC Arts in Schools initiative.
The Arts in Schools Initiative is one of BAC’s major achievements. Brunswick County Schools and BAC partnered to create the program, which integrates the arts into the curriculum at Brunswick County Academy. Kristi Swain, the Arts Integration Specialist at Brunswick County Academy, develops plans and team teaches with the other teachers so that the arts are woven into the core subjects.
Swain says she also arranges field trips for students and contracts with professional artists throughout the state who spend a week at the school to teach their art form to the students.
Another program that Swain implemented last year was VoArts, in which local artists teach their specialty to students. Some of the skills are digital photography, watercolor painting, crocheting and jewelry making. Students have the opportunity to produce their own items, and Brunswick County businesses agree to display the works on consignment. When the items are sold, students are given the entire amount of the sale.
Swain says the Arts in Schools Initiative began in 2009–10, and records show improvement in students’ achievements. In the year before the program started, 42 students dropped out of Brunswick County Academy. After one year of implementation, 35 students dropped out, attendance increased from 86 percent to 88 percent and the number of students who reached grade level went from 28.85 percent to 56.86 percent.
“We use all of the art forms to engage students and support them through graduation,” Swain says. “We keep them interested in school so they stay in school.”
Serens says she can not emphasize enough the importance of the program.
“When you decrease drop-out rate, you decrease pregnancy and eliminate costs to the county,” says Serens. “North Carolina Department of Education made a personal visit to the school and was impressed with the program.”
Halberstadt says the arts programs increase the students’ creativity.
“It makes learning fun,” he says. “It makes it easier for them to learn and keeps them in school. That’s the most important thing the Brunswick Arts Council has achieved.”
Linda Kay Milliken of Shallotte graduated from Brunswick County Academy in 2010 and says she didn’t know anything about the arts before they were integrated into her school curriculum. She became interested in crocheting, watercolor painting and photography. She sold a photograph of Orton Plantation that she took while on a field trip.
“I learned there are different areas of the arts and different ways you can express your feelings,” Milliken says. “In crocheting, I learned that I was able to do it when someone taught me step-by-step. It gave me confidence to try something.”
After graduation, Milliken entered the certified nursing assistant program at Brunswick Community College and graduated March 29. She begins work at Dosher Memorial Hospital once she gets results of the state board exams.
Staat remembers another student that BAC funded for the National Drum and Bugle Corps.
“This good deed turned this young man’s life around to the point that he started doing his schoolwork and took an interest in other school activities,” Staat wrote in an email. “I felt proud of being part of a group of nonprofits to accomplish something that meant so much to this teenager.”
Tait says the entire county benefits from the funds BAC administers.
“I’m always trying to reach new people,” he says. “One way to get people involved is through the council.”