Housed in a brick, 1900s-built former Carnegie Library, with two galleries, original leaded windows and restored wood interior, the arts councils Jordan River Art Center anchors the north end of East Jordans Main Street.
After celebrating its longevity with a late-summer, 20-year anniversary exhibit and member picnic, JRAC continues to focus on its future.
IT TAKES VOLUNTEERS
Formed in 1988, with Fran Pletz as its first president, the council quickly attained 115 members and gathered a volunteer board. Artist Pat Tinney designed JRACs lady slipper logo, which remains its logo to this day.
I came in shortly after it was founded, says Howard Ellis, a former president (three times) of JRAC and membership coordinator for the last seven years. I was not a founding member because I had to work that night, he says with a laugh.
Today, council memberships are close to 300 and provide a good portion of the councils funding, as well as art education grants.
With 292 members we do quite well membership-wise, says Ellis. People are very kind and generous. We really dont go out and advertise its almost by word of mouth.
The diverse board consists of artists, lawyers and other professionals. Everyones volunteer, says Ellis. We have really good working members. we really have to all pitch in.
PROMOTING ARTS FUTURE
Educational grants provide funding to introduce art in area schools by offering workshops and classes and display exhibits in the galleries.
Last spring our teachers went into all the schools with felting equipment and then all the kids got to do what is called needle-felting; and those are on display now. And we do go into the schools a lot with various projects and have school kids come to the arts center, too.
JRAC also provides scholarship opportunities for serious art students.
Every May we have a wonderful scholarship show, explains Ellis. We invite all kids in our area to participate with the criteria that theyre going to art school. At the end of the first semester they send us grades and we give money for the next semester.
JRAC Denominations of $1,500, $1,000 and $750. 12 high schools are invited each year, and most have students who participate.
We cant do it without the teachers, admits Ellis. Theyre very cooperative.
If youre in East Jordan in the next few weeks, be sure to grab a seat for JRACs current exhibit, An Invitation to the Table. Curated by artist, Nancy Carey, the show runs through November 14.
You pretend youre inviting a real person or an imaginary person to dinner and then you create a place setting that goes with that persons background or personality, explains Ellis. One woman has a vast Elvis collection, so shes inviting Elvis. People are pretty inventive, so that should be fun.
Paintings from this summers 2008 Artist Gathering are also on display.
And mark your calendar for JRACs one-day Members Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair, November 8, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. at East Jordan High School. Nearly 50 artist booths are committed already with hopes for a few more. Many artists come from all over the state.
We serve a marvelous gourmet lunch, says Ellis, who works on the kitchen crew as well as overseeing the entire arts and crafts fair.
Its just before hunting season opens, continues Ellis, and we usually do pretty well. The communitys very supportive, even though there are many other art shows all around us.
Closer to the holidays JRAC offers a members sale with a kids section of affordable gifts. Cooks will enjoy a copy of Flavors and Visions, a 250-page book for sale.
Its art and a cookbook, says Ellis. A lot of our artists were willing to let us have pictures and to give us recipes. Its been a great money-raiser for us $25 and well worth it.
ON A MISSION
With six to eight varied art shows per year from metal works to motorcycles to fiber art and opportunities for art education, JRAC is clearly filling a need in its community. The council prides itself on making art accessible to all.
Its a very friendly place, says Ellis, very unpretentious. We do have a great variety of work and we put a show together with some sort of theme.
But JRACs small-town success definitely depends on those who give their time.
Twenty years of volunteers being willing to give as much time and effort to keep an organization going,says something about our community and our artists that I think is very important, concludes Ellis, because without them, we could not do this.
Visit Jordan River Arts Council at 301 Main Street in East Jordan. The council is open from 1-4 p.m. daily. Call 231-536-3385 or visit www.jordanriverarts.com for more information.