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Tourism Authority issues bond to acquire Arts Clayton

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

After years of operating as an artistic nomad in Jonesboro, Arts Clayton will have a permanent home on Main Street.

On Tuesday, the Clayton County Tourism Authority approved the issuance of a $600,000 bond, allowing the county to acquire the Arts Clayton building, located on 136 South Main St., in Jonesboro. The bond will enable the county to buy the space from its private owner and allow Arts Clayton to transition from paying rent, to paying off a mortgage.

Arts Clayton is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the arts throughout the Southern Crescent.

George Glaze, vice chairman of the Tourism Authority board, said the group has issued bonds in the past to start such projects as the Morrow Tourism Center, in an effort to promote the county's cultural assets. He believes the bond to purchase Arts Clayton is vital to the promotion of the arts in Clayton County.

"That's the whole purpose, to have the assurance that Arts Clayton was going to be there and be a part of the future development of Main Street," said Glaze. "It's owned by a private citizen and they desired to sell the property. The building was renovated and set up specially for an art gallery, and it was to Arts Clayton's benefit to buy the building rather than move and have to renovate another building.

"They are so involved in many of the activities in the county and the schools and its encouraging to know that they will have a home of their own," Glaze continued. "It was something that not only the Arts Clayton board, but the Board of Commissioners thought was a good thing to happen."

Linda Summerlin, executive director of Arts Clayton, said the group has moved four times since its first office in 1986. The bond issue allows Arts Clayton to "be in charge of our destiny," she said.

"I really don't have the words to say how wonderful it is," said Summerlin. "A lot of people didn't realize that we were tenants ... Last year, we were approached by the owners and they said they wanted to sell the building and put it on the market."

Summerlin said since last summer, the county has taken action to acquire the building for Arts Clayton. She believes it is the perfect location, one which Arts Clayton has arrived at "by destiny."

"We, in our heart of hearts, would never want to move from this space, or move those murals," said Summerlin. "It would be very difficult to reproduce what we have in any other location, no matter where it was."

Eldrin Bell, Clayton County Board of Commissioners chairman, said Arts Clayton is one of the main ways children in the county are exposed to the arts. He said the board is happy to stand behind the organization.

"They will be playing a pivotal role in the future of the this county, and it's a valuable location," said Bell. "We see it as a benefit for our children, therefore, the board supports them."