Celebrate Arts: A History Of Local Artistic Engagement

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ARTForLife_MuseumFieldTrip2By Chris Dyer, CEO, The Arts Council

It all started in 1970 – well, at least that’s when it was made official. Since I arrived at The Arts Council five years ago, my time here has flown by with a constant focus on the future. So I recently came to the realization that I didn’t know that much about how it all started.

The original articles of incorporation are dated September 10, 1970. Reflecting on the original 16 signers, I cannot imagine how much vision and dedication these individuals put into the goal of fostering the arts in perpetuity in the Brazos Valley. It is no coincidence that our Celebrate the Arts event takes place each September to remember—and celebrate—why we do what we do for the arts.

The original founders, some unfortunately no longer with us, include the names Munroe, Burkhart, Davis, Geyer, Plass, Van Arsdel, Wolfe and Davenport. If you are involved in the arts, if even just on the periphery, you’ve probably heard these names before. The vision that this group had over 45 years ago was innovative yet simple: establish a permanent organization to facilitate communication among arts organizations and assist in their fulfillment.

After visiting with some of our original founders and volunteers, it was clear that the driving force behind the formation of The Arts Council was the concern about the lack of artistic offerings in public schools and the need for a mechanism to fund the arts. There were artistic activities going on, including groups like StageCenter, Aggie Players, art clubs, local exhibits and occasional performances at local auditoriums. However, the landscape of the arts community was otherwise sparse in 1969: there was no symphony, no funding and no unified voice championing the arts. Bryan had approximately 34,000 residents. College Station fewer than 20,000, and many of those residents were Texas A&M students.

Jumping to 2015, The Arts Council has 67 affiliate member organizations hailing from every artistic discipline. Our “office” started in the living rooms of dedicated volunteers, was located in the infamous “Blue House” on Texas Avenue, and had a short stint at a shopping center. Our budget was $0.

Today the Arts Council works with private and public supporters and provides almost half a million dollars annually in direct funding support to arts organizations. Our first significant arts grant was distributed in the early 90s.

We are much more than just a funding source. We advocate for all things arts in the Brazos Valley. Providing free artistic opportunities for youth of all socioeconomic backgrounds and abilities also continues to be a major focus.

Long ago, eight couples and countless volunteers dedicated to the arts came together with a unified plan to make sure the Brazos Valley would never lack in the quality-of-life department. With everyone’s help, we look forward to continuing that tradition for the next 45 years and beyond.