by Nancy Holley
The Visalia Arts Consortium, which began as a seed in the hearts and minds of artists, thespians, and lovers of creativity in the 1980s, finally has a New Space that will contribute creative cultural diversity in the Visalia Art District.
After years of meeting at the Creative Center as an informal but invested group and later as a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization acting as the umbrella for tax-exempt monies to fledgling groups, the Arts Consortium became the designated arts council for Tulare County. Once that official designation was in place, they found a permanent home in an over 100-year-old building in the Art District.
As with many elderly buildings, it adequately served the purpose for monthly meetings and administrative offices, but was very outdated. Lack of ambiance in the main room resulted in underutilization.
Thus, Phase 1 of a renovation project was born. Erin Olm-Shipman noted, “It’s a project that Caroline Koontz (Executive Director) and McKenna Friend-Hoffman (Program Coordinator) had been pushing for a while. When I joined the Arts Consortium last summer as Director of Development, the Board finally agreed to move forward with it.” The three dedicated ladies organized a fundraising campaign to support the needed changes.
The campaign was very successful exceeding their goal by 15%, which made a huge difference when they learned that replacing the wood floor would be more expensive and time-consuming than anticipated.
The Eames Demetrios Reception Event was the first to show off the newly built, finished, and painted walls and to point out all the work remaining on the wood floor.
Since the Consortium relies heavily on volunteers to complete the renovation, the final touches for Phase 1 will not be in place until the end of summer, but already the space is being utilized by several of the organizations under the Arts Consortium umbrella.
The Grace Note Music Studio recital in the new space in July was well attended.
My Voice Media Center is expected to have another exhibition of their work in August, and the Visalia Opera Company
is looking forward to having a more conducive area for rehearsals.
After the floor is finished, the moveable display panels will be built, allowing various configurations of the space for displaying exhibits by talented local artists as well as guest artists. As the first showing using the moveable display panels, the Consortium will be featuring a nationally recognized folk sculptor in September.
The Visalia Visual Chronicle will take center stage in October with an exhibit of its current holdings. The Chronicle is a privately funded, publicly owned art collection for the City of Visalia. The Chronicle’s mission is to build a public art collection that captures people, cultures, experiences, and views that define Visalia and its quality of life.
With Phase 1’s anticipated completion by summer’s end, Koontz, Friend-Hoffman, and Olm-Shipman are excitedly developing Phase 2. According to Olm-Shipman, one of the major items on that wish list is to “install a professional lighting system to enhance our exhibitions using LED’s which will also be more energy efficient.”
The Arts Consortium focuses on the arts in all its forms: visual, sensual, and performance. Studio classes are taking place several times a week in the new space providing creative outlets. The importance of creativity and artistic expression cannot be over emphasized. Local, national, and international studies have shown that exposure to the arts promotes better scholarship, citizenship, and entrepreneurial endeavors.
Watch for future articles in Kings River Life Magazine about coming events so that you too can enjoy the New Space and participate in making Phase 2 a reality. And check out more arts and entertainment articles every week in KRL’s A & E section.