Clarke County Residents Gather to Discuss Arts Council

The creative juices were flowing Wednesday evening as artists and officials joined together at the Town/County building for a community summit on the formation of an Arts Council in Clarke County. Approximately twenty people gathered to brainstorm and discuss the possibilities and challenges of forming the first Arts Council in Clarke. The forum was moderated by Milton Herd who has helped keep other such summits on track   and Wednesday’s meeting proved to be an informative and productive public session that focused on two objectives; identifying a core group of people to champion the effort and to identify important concerns and desired outcomes.

Participants were asked to introduce themselves and say a few words about their interests and connections to the arts in Clarke County. These ranged from writers and   producers to musicians, dancers, and visual artists. The diversity of the audience opened up the discussion to illustrate the rich art community that exists in Clarke and was a lead-in for talk on who should be represented in the Arts Council. Music, dance, and other performing arts that exist in the county were discussed in addition to the many visual artists who work in a variety of mediums such as paint, metal, and ceramic. Some pointed out that the council should also include representation for artisans as well as artists, with several furniture makers and quilters in the county.

As the list of the types of art that should be represented grew, the moderator turned the discussion towards understanding what an Arts Council would be responsible for and its purpose in the community.

Advocacy for the arts community, promotion, and education were were all discussed, but what seemed to be the most important functions to come out of the conversations were coordination and communication. Art events overlapping on the calendar stretch thin a finite audience and fail to maximize the exposure of the arts to the broadest audience. Town Planner, Christy Dunkle said a recent overlap between photo contests in the town spurred the idea of the summit. The school production of “Our Town” and the Firehouse Gallery had both launched photo competitions at the same time without knowing it. The overlap presented an opportunity to discuss the role of arts in the community.

Coordination and event overlap also opened up the conversation for several stake holders in the county who had concerns about competition. Representatives from the Barns of Rose Hill said they thought their project would be an integral part of many of the ideas discussed and were concerned that an Arts Council would lead to duplicate and competitive efforts. Frazer Watkins of Shepherds Ford Productions said he was concerned that there is a saturation point for the arts and would not want an Arts Council competing for a finite audience. However, as those concerns were discussed the reality emerged that coordination and communication could be the key to addressing these challenges. There is not a lack of arts in Clarke County, there is a lack of coordination, which creates conflicts. Coordination would also present opportunities to leverage synergies for multiple types of arts to combine to expand an event and make it a greater success. The Arts Council could serve as a hub for artist to communicate with each other to avoid conflicting events and efforts. Given the ubiquitous nature of web tools and communications, a web presence for events and contact was brought up as a natural part of the effort.

The discussion rounded out with action items to keep the idea moving forward. At this formative stage the consensus was that a steering committee needs to be created and the focus of discussion turned to who should be included. The audience identified key organizations in the community that should be approached about having some representation on this steering committee. The school system, Berryville Main Street,   the Barns of Rose Hill, and the Historical Society were all mentioned as likely participants. The hope is that the initial meeting will generate discussions in the community so that people who are passionate about the arts in these organizations will begin to come forward to become involved in the effort.

A follow up meeting will be scheduled in the future, Anyone interested in being involved or who would like more information should contact Christy Dunkle at


  1. Fly on the wall says:

    This is a good first step. One thing that was overlooked – Susi Bailey has done a phenomenal job sending out email blasts of all events (of which she is notified) to a pretty decent distribution list. Most folks there were right, though…good
    communication is key to effective coordination of events.

    One question for The Barns, though – what sort of “backstage” setup will be there, for theatrical productions? I know it’ll be a real good site for concerts and things, even if seating will be somewhat limited. But, will it truly be a venue suited for a play? Just wondering…