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Arts Clayton celebrates Allan Vigil, 25th birthday

Saturday evening was a night to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Arts Clayton’s founding, with a dinner held in the middle of Jonesboro’s Main Street, but the event mainly shone the spotlight on automobile dealer Allan Vigil, one of the group’s biggest financial sponsors.

The local arts group rededicated the main exhibit gallery space, within its Arts Clayton Gallery, as the Allan Vigil Georgia Gallery just an hour before the dinner began. Arts Clayton Executive Director Linda Summerlin said the group chose to rededicate the space in Vigil’s honor because of his long-standing financial contributions to the group, including sponsoring its annual golf tournament fund-raiser for the last nine years.

Summerlin declined to divulge how much money Vigil, the owner of Morrow-based Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln, Inc., has given to Arts Clayton over the years, but she said it is a “significant” amount of money.

During the dinner, however, Arts Clayton Board of Directors President Krystal Pate said the group’s annual Allan Vigil Golf Classic has raised more than $300,000 over the last nine years for arts education programs in Clayton County. Summerlin said the support of Vigil and the Clayton County Board of Commissioners, has served as “leverage” to build further community support for the group.

“When we started to calculate the commitment from the business community over the last 25 years, goodness gracious, his [Vigil’s] support and commitment over the years has been phenomenal,” Summerlin said. “It is far and above anything [else] that we have ever had. When you align that with public support from the county commissioners, that’s allowed us to do awesome things, and create what we have now.”

Saturday’s event also served as a kick-off for an Arts Clayton Capital Campaign, designed to help the group maintain its gallery space in Jonesboro. The campaign was launched during the dinner with a $15,000 donation, made to Arts Clayton by friends and relatives of Vigil in his name.

“When I walked in there [the gallery], it was unbelievable,” said Vigil, who explained that he appreciated it, but deferred the praise to the people he has worked with over the years. “I just thank everybody. I don’t deserve it. It’s the people around me who deserve it.”

Vigil said he feels it is important to support Arts Clayton, mainly because of its education programs for children. “There’s football, basketball, this, that and the other, and we need to have another outlet for these kids that have other endeavors,” he said. Officials with the arts group said Vigil also arranged for the group to get its first vehicle for its Arts Van education program.

Mike Vigil, Allan Vigil’s son, said the idea to name part of Arts Clayton’s gallery space came up nine months ago while planning was taking place for the group’s 25th Anniversary celebrations. Mike Vigil is also a member of the Arts Clayton Board of Directors.

“He [Allan Vigil] always encouraged me to get involved in the community, and this is a great way to get involved, not only with the arts section of the community, but [also] the children in the community,” Mike Vigil said. “I’m happy that people can honor my hero in the way that I would want to.”

While Allan Vigil was the guest of honor at the dinner, several other groups, businesses and individuals were honored for their contributions to Arts Clayton over the years. Those recognized included the Clayton County Board of Commissioners, the Clayton News Daily, and several of Arts Clayton’s founders.

Clayton County Commission Vice Chairman Wole Ralph and Commissioner Sonna Singleton presented Summerlin with a proclamation, honoring Arts Clayton, and Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who attended as a guest of the Vigil family. He read a letter of congratulations to the group from Gov. Nathan Deal.

But, after Arts Clayton’s other supporters were recognized, everyone turned their attention back to Vigil. The automotive dealer was then feted by several of his friends, including Cagle and WSB-TV news anchor Monica Pearson.

Vigil’s biography, provided by Arts Clayton, shows he is a University of Florida fan (which was the source of some ribbing from University of Georgia fans at the dinner), a Vietnam War veteran, a past member of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents, and a past president of the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce.

“He is an individual that represents what giving to a community, what an investment, really does mean,” Cagle said. “He demonstrates, every single day, that life is not about himself, but life is about others. And, I will tell you, I value that, and I appreciate what he has done for this community, and for what he has done for the state.”

Pearson, in her remarks, referenced the fact that the building which houses Arts Clayton’s gallery was once a car dealership that sold Ford vehicles. “How appropriate it is that Allan Vigil is being honored tonight in that building [the Arts Clayton Gallery], that used to be a Ford dealership,” she said.

The television news anchor also revealed that she “secretly” interviewed Vigil’s employees, to find out more information about him, and how he runs his business, explaining that his workers described him as someone who is “loyal” to his family, employees and customers.

“Thank you for being so vigilant to your family, your employees, your community and especially Arts Clayton,” Pearson told Vigil. “Savor the newly named Allan Vigil Georgia Gallery, and congratulations from all of us.”