Council looks to expand the art scene
By JUDY SHERARD
PHILLIPSBURG -- Budding artists now can hone their skills in classes at a new art studio in downtown Phillipsburg while local actors showcase their talents in productions.
A group of local residents on the Phillips County Arts Council, which was founded in 1979, are committed to expanding the arts in their community.
"Up until this year, (it) primarily has been a council that brought in professional performances," said Morris Engle, a council member for 26 years who serves as treasurer.
The performances, most at Huck Boyd Community Center after it opened in 1997, run the gamut from chamber music to comedy -- "something that everybody would be interested in," Engle said.
Those performances will continue, but the council is diversifying, adding community theater productions and fine arts.
Several local groups were working separately to expand access to various art genres, said Paula Schilowsky, a member of the performing arts committee.
Representatives of the groups met and decided to work together under the arts council umbrella.
"We had been working independently in our committees ... and needed a board of directors," said Sheila Roberts, a member of the visual arts committee.
The council also has had town meetings to get input, Schilowsky said.
"That's kind of what we do in Phillipsburg," Roberts said. "We just grab the bull by the horns and go forward."
"We're setting up a small studio in the Fischer Building downtown which will have drafting tables and supplies," Engle said. "David (Pugh) is coordinating and directing two musicals with local talent."
Pugh is a local minister and has a drama background.
"I always wanted to see that happen," he said of the community theater group.
The first community musical will be a dinner theater April 26 and 27 of "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown."
Beginning drawing and mixed media classes taught by Julie Peterson-Shea, began in the new studio this week.
Other classes might be added depending on the demand.
A dozen artists' tables in the studio "will give the students a place to call their own while they're taking the class," said Sherry Gillihan, a member of the visual arts committee.
The visual arts committee also plans to have open studio time managed by volunteers for those who don't want to take a class, she said.
"They're accomplished artists themselves," Vicki Constable, co-chairwoman of the arts council, said of Roberts and Gillihan, who are sisters.
Ceramics classes will be added once the kiln is installed, said Brennan Engle, arts council promotions committee chairman.
"It's going to take community involvement to make it work," Gillihan said. "It's vital to a community to have arts."
The funding for the effort comes from ticket sales, memberships and donations from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation, Albert and Leona A. Morgan Foundation, and Darwin and Lorene Cole Foundation, Morris Engle said.