Art Center, Art District kick off fundraising drives
Lewistown Art Center Summer Art Camp instructor Stephanie Simpson assists student Tori Rindal during a pottery class in the basement of the Lewistown Art Center Wednesday. The LAC has started its annual membership drive, which is its biggest fundraising effort of the year.
Photo by Charlie Denison
As the Lewistown Art Center gears up for its annual membership drive this summer, there seems to be more emphasis on art downtown than ever.
This year, the Art Center is not alone in asking for contributions, as the newly formed Lewistown Arts and Entertainment District has also kicked off its fundraising campaign.
Although supportive of the Art District, LAC Executive Director Linda Tullis – who grew up with art district spokeswoman and Spotted Horse Gallery owner Carol Woolsey – was a little surprised by the timing of their June 17 fundraising drive.
“We need to be respectful of each other,” Tullis said. “The Art Center is an established non-profit that benefits Lewistown everyday whereas the art district is still in its conceptual stages.”
Established in April, the Lewistown Arts and Entertainment District is dedicated to “enhancing the experience of visitors and residents attracted to Central Montana’s unique climate combined with human ingenuity and culture,” according to Woolsey.
“We are here as a marketing tool for the arts,” Woolsey said. “We’re busting our behinds to promote the arts and reverse urban decay by inhabiting vacant buildings and bringing pride to downtown.”
Woolsey said the Arts and Entertainment District wants to both acknowledge the arts and expand the arts. The goal is growth, and “to enrich the cultural life of the Lewistown community and enhance downtown by nurturing and supporting economic growth through arts and entertainment.”
The art district encompasses 1st Avenue and Main Street through 7th Avenue and Main Street (including Broadway and Janeaux and the intersecting streets between), Woolsey said, which includes the Art Center. From the beginning stages of the art district (summer of 2015, when the idea started to formulate), Woolsey said she “had every intention of supporting the Art Center.”
“We are not trying to take away from the art center or from anyone,” she said. “We’re trying to promote the Art Center. We’re trying to promote our non-profits.”
The art district – led by a Lewistown City Commission-approved task force – hopes to “enhance the experience of visitors and residents attracted to Central Montana’s unique climate combined with human ingenuity and culture,” Woolsey wrote in a brochure. Such a concept doesn’t just include the Art Center, she said, but it starts there.
“The Art Center is the nucleus of art activity in Lewistown and has been since 1970,” Woolsey said. “I’ve been a supporter of the Art Center for a long time. In 1980, I was even assistant director. It’s a huge, integral part of our downtown.”
Woolsey said she did not realize the art district fundraising drive was taking place at the same time as the Art Center membership drive. In addition, Woolsey said the art district was hoping to start their fundraising campaign in April or May, but they didn’t have the momentum going.
The timing is unfortunate, Art Center Chair Clint Loomis said. Normally, the Art Center would like to help the art district and work together, but right now there is one task at hand and that is recruiting members.
“Right now we are focusing our attention solely on our membership drive,” Loomis said. “If the art district’s timing was different, I feel we’d have an easier time offering mutual support.”
Loomis added that he appreciates what Woolsey and the art district task force are doing and was glad to see that their kick-off fundraiser earlier this month was a success.
Art Center relies on membership
Loomis and Tullis said the annual membership drive is critical, as the LAC is in need of more members and funding in order to continue to offer services at a higher level and stay true to the mission to “promote art, art education and art appreciation through exhibits, outreach and cultural events for the enrichment and enjoyment of citizens in Central Montana.”
A retired art teacher, Loomis said he is passionate about furthering educational opportunities for young and old, and much of the funding for such projects and programs comes from the membership drive.
“We have big things in the works for education,” Loomis said. “The programs for children are excellent. For example, we had 26 kids a day this week for the Summer Art Camp. We also are looking into starting an art lecture series.”
In order to do this, Tullis said, the membership drive must be a success.
“One hundred percent of the funding we get from the membership drive goes to the Art Center,” she said. “There is no bigger fundraiser.”
Tullis said it costs approximately $117,000 a year to keep the doors open at the Art Center, and, if the Art Center were to fall short of the amount, “some big decisions would have to be made.”
Having the Art Center in Lewistown is beneficial for everyone, Loomis added, as it provides culture and art from all mediums, from visual to musical to dance.
“When it comes to the visual arts, the Art Center is top notch,” Loomis said. “[Tullis] has done an incredible job elevating the quality of gallery shows and it is our goal to continue to look for the best artists we can find.”
“We do our very best to keep the visual and performing arts coming to Lewistown,” Tullis added.