By Ben Wofford
April 13, 2012. After occupying the Jones House on King Street for more than 20 years, the Watauga County Arts Council is relocating.
An April 2 vote by the Boone Town Council created a Cultural Resources Board, which will be run by a Cultural Resources Director.
The Watauga County Arts Council will keep their location at the Jones House until July 1, when the Cultural Resources Director is appointed to manage the Jones House.
Cherry Johnson, Executive Director of the Watauga County Arts Council said, “This, for all intents and purposes, ends the role of the Watauga County Arts Council at the Jones House since we have occupied and managed that facility on a contractual basis since the mid 1980’s.”
The Arts Council has not found a new residence and is actively seeking a new home.
If community members are aware of appropriate spaces, Johnson said to call the Arts Council with their ideas.
“We’re not taking this personally, we don’t want the community to think there has been a fight,” Johnson said. “But we feel like there were a lot things going on that were primarily due to a lack of communication. And we hope that we’ve gotten past that point.”
Documents from the Town Council defining the Cultural Resources board said, “The goal in creating a Cultural Resources Board … will be to promote cultural programs that improve the quality of life in Boone, and also encourage tourism and economic development.”
The Town Council’s creation of the Cultural Resource Board will, among other things, unify the schedules and operations of many town owned cultural resources and facilities, such as the Jones House, Horn in the West or Appalachian Theater.
“If you look at the Arts Council as a family and that family is moving to a new house, it’s still going to be a family,” Johnson said. “I want the community to understand that the Arts Council still exists, we are strong and we are going to continue to work.”
For more information, call the Watauga County Arts Council at 828-264-1789.
Statement Released by Mike Wise, President and Cherry Johnson, Executive Director of the Watauga Arts Council
The Arts Council and the Jones House
In 1983 the Town of Boone acquired the Jones House. Mazie Jones Levenson stipulated in her sales contract that the Jones House be used as a cultural, historical, community center, and park for the citizens and visitors to Boone. The Town Council at that time established a committee of local citizens to decide how the Jones House could be used as a cultural, historical, community center, and park. This committee did a very thorough job of developing possibilities, but finally came to the conclusion that the charge given the community could best be served by our Watauga County Arts Council. The Arts Council’s vision for the Jones House was that it contain three art galleries for showing the talents of local artists. It also saw the potential of the building as an attractive site for meetings and celebrations for members of our community. It further saw the potential as a venue for programs highlighting the talents of local musicians, dancers, and authors to present their works. Without it being required, the Arts Council felt an obligation to the Town to turn the Jones House into its cultural and artistic center. Over the last twenty-five years, the Arts Council has brought you a variety of interesting and often beautiful programs. These have included readings from local authors, music ranging from our traditional Appalachian sources through chamber concerts featuring the works of classical masters. This has even included a performance in the Mazie Jones Gallery by the North Carolina Dance Theatre. We are proud that the Arts Council has presented these programs over the years. And we have been equally proud as we have watched attendance at these events increase almost tenfold. We have done our best to make Boone and the Jones House a focal point of cultural activity in the High Country.
We are, however, the Watauga County Arts Council. And as the Watauga County Arts Council, we also have a mission beyond the Boone town limits. In partnerships with the county schools and the university we have developed programs that allow our children to experience the arts in ways that have not been possible in many other counties. The Arts Council sponsors a touring arts program, offers artistic residencies, and direct musical instruction to help preserve our traditional art forms. During the summers we present the Summer Arts Camp in which children experience and participate in a broad array of arts activities.
We also help local groups through our Grassroots Grants as they develop their own artistic and cultural programming. We participate with our neighboring counties in the Regional Artist Project Grant Program where we assist individual artists in refining their craft.
The mission of the Watauga County Arts Council is “To sponsor and encourage the cultural arts in Watauga County, North Carolina, with an emphasis on arts in education and the traditional arts.” While we will no longer be involved in serving the mission of the Jones House Community Center, we have a continuing commitment to the people in our county. We are a dedicated group of individuals who believe that arts and the appreciation of arts reflect the soul of the community. We will continue to pursue our mission for the benefit of our county.
For the near future, we will continue to operate from the Jones House. But as the spirit of the Tao suggests, in change there is opportunity. There are services and projects that we have been unable to offer at the Jones House, but which could be developed in another space. We are actively exploring new venues and the creative opportunities that they may offer.
As always, as an organization dedicated to serving our community, we value your advice and encourage you to offer your suggestions and, more importantly, we value your support.
Mike Wise, President and Cherry Johnson, Executive Director