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Months After 35th Anniversary, Avery Arts Council to Dissolve, Watauga County Arts Council Steps In

By Jesse Wood

Sept. 6, 2012. The Avery Arts Council (AAC) 35-year run is over.

This comes roughly two years after its inaugural exhibit in Linville, which the town was being dubbed an “emerging arts district” after the council was kicked out of the Cheese House on the campus of Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk in 2010. 

Gallery Director Caitlin Morehouse posted a letter to “Friends of the AAC” on the council’s website on Aug. 31 that the nonprofit entity will cease operating “effective upon the N.C. Secretary of State’s acceptance of the article of dissolution.”

This turn of events was voted for unanimously by the AAC board of directors. The exhibiting artists are to remove work by Sept. 15.

Morehouse, in the post, wrote that the AAC has sufficient funds to meet the remaining fiscal obligations. 

“As required by law, any money remaining in Avery Arts Council accounts after expenses are met must be turned over to another non-profit organization,” Morehouse wrote. 

Apparently the demise of the AAC was imminent. The number of members on the board of directors had been slashed in half, and, according to Watauga County Arts Council (WCAC) Executive Director Cherry Johnson, the WCAC and ACC considered merging during the spring and summer months. 

But with the timing of the WCAC losing its home at the Jones House Community Center in downtown Boone, “a merger simply wasn’t able to come to fruition in a timely manner,” Johnson said in an email.

With the AAC formally dissolving and the WCAC having new gallery space and a gift shop (which plans to open tomorrow) at 783 West King Street in downtown Boone, Johnson has agreed to forego jurying AAC artists and allow them space to exhibit work.

“Caitlin … has been a friend, adviser, and inspiration to us as we began our new gallery.  She has worked so hard to get the Avery Gallery running and to pull off a quality space filled with great artwork,” Johnson said.

“Because we trust Caitlin’s judgment so much, we felt that it didn’t make sense for us to jury artists they’d already accepted to their gallery in Avery County, so we’re accepting the work of any of their artists who meet the criteria of our gallery and gift shop without asking them to go through the jury process,” Johnson said.

“It will be totally up to each artist to decide if they want to bring their work to our gallery, but we certainly hope they’ll do so.”

Johnson added that Toe River Arts Council has agreed to act as a fiscal agent to disperse the remaining funds of the Avery Arts Council and to see that they go to serve the citizens of Avery County over the next two years. 

“This speaks highly of the spirit of Arts Councils in Western North Carolina,” Johnson said. “We are friends, allies, and supportive of one another.  We do not see one another as competitors and often lean on one another for advice and inspiration as we work in our own unique counties to meet very similar needs.”