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Clayton, Henry receive Grassroots Arts Program grants

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The Georgia Council for the Arts recently announced the 2010 winners of grants through the state's Grassroots Arts Program (GAP).

Five organizations in Clayton County and six organizations in Henry County have received funding to host programs that promote the arts.

Clayton got a total of $6,390 in grants for 2010, while Henry was awarded a total of $4,135.64. Those numbers are down from last year's totals of $9,153.32 for Clayton and $5,924.07 for Henry, according to officials from Arts Clayton, the agency responsible for administering GAP grants in Butts, Clayton, Coweta, Fayette, Henry, Jasper, Lamar, Newton, Rockdale, and Spalding counties.

Arts Clayton Executive Director Linda Summerlin said that despite cuts in state funding, the GAP grants will help spread the arts in the Southern Crescent by improving the financial strength of new arts organizations and giving established ones the freedom to devise new programs.

"It's unfortunate that the state legislature, as with everything else, significantly cut the funding," Summerlin said. However, GAP grants are "the most efficient way to get taxpayer dollars into all of the state's counties" for the arts. "We've always had great programs and opportunities presented through these different organizations that apply. It gives them the legs and the financial resources to get their program started in their community. A lot of these programs in the community continue to grow every year and become a major production."

In Clayton, Hampton-based nonprofit, Closer Look Ministries, received $500 to help with its program, "Imagine! A Storytelling Festival;" Friends of the Clayton County Library System, a fund-raising organization associated with the library system, got $1,472.50 to aid its "Relax ... Take an Art Break" program; Riverdale's Hearts to Nourish Hope youth empowerment organization received $1,472.50 to help with the original stage production of "Hearts of Clayton;" The Rainbow House shelter for abused children got $1,472.50 to assist with its "Through A Child's Eyes" exhibit; River's Edge Elementary School got $1,472.50 for its "Reading and Art Around the World," program.

In Henry, the Atlanta Festival Ballet received $1,000 to assist in its production of "The Nutcracker;" the Henry Arts Alliance got $435 to help with its "Embracing the Stone" Celtic Festival; the Henry County Board of Education got $1,000 to assist in the hosting of "Art Fest 2010 -- A Hands on Celebration of the Arts; the Southern Crescent Symphony Orchestra received $800 for its "Dance and March Concert;" the Visual Arts Collective of Henry County received $450 to host the "Art in Unusual Places" exhibit, and the Henry Players got $450 to help host their production of "The Women."

Organizations that receive a GAP grant must match the grant by 50 percent, use the money to fund a program accessible to the general public, and complete the project by June 30, 2010, according to Arts Clayton officials.

Carol Stewart, director of the Clayton County Library System, said the GAP grant will help fund, "Relax ... Take an Art Break," a year-long series of artistic performances on the premises of the Headquarters Library. She believes artistic programing is key to tapping into the creativity of young people.

"We believe it is important to expose children to music and arts that they may not be introduced to at school or at home," Stewart said. "During these stressful, economic times, it will encourage people to set their worries aside and enjoy a wide array of artistic performances."

Richard Bell, conductor of the Southern Crescent Symphony Orchestra, said the grant will subsidize a fourth of the programming cost for its spring "Dance and March Concert," a "side-by-side" performance, in which SCSO members will play classic dance pieces and marches.

During the second half of the concert, the players will share a stand with a member of the Southern Crescent Youth Orchestra, Bell added. He said the GAP grants serve as a "feather in the hat" for the organization.

"Getting a grant from them [the Georgia Council for the Arts] gives you a certain amount of legitimacy in your programming," Bell said. "It's kind of a stamp of approval that your organization is on the right track."