As a result of the Adams County Arts Council’s 2008 Big Canvass community planning meetings, the ACAC Board of Directors set the creation of a community arts education center for Adams County as its primary strategic goal. A Board Committee, appointed to explore suitable options, found a building on South Washington Street that fit the Board’s defined specifications of size, cost, and general location. As an added bonus, this property, which is located just blocks from the Gettysburg square, is part of the Elm Street District. Renovation efforts will benefit the Borough and Commonwealth’s work to revitalize this neglected area. With the help of Nancy E. Petrisko, the Board conducted a feasibility study to determine if there was community support to advance the project. The study, conducted over three months in late 2009, included 49 representatives from government, foundations, corporations and individual community members and showed very strong interest in this project. In February 2010, under the leadership of co-chairs Bill Monahan and Phil Murray, the hard work of a dedicated capital campaign committee, and Nancy’s guidance, ACAC began its “quiet phase” of a 1.1 million dollar Capital Campaign.
Major gifts pledged early gave this campaign the encouragement it needed. Substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, ACAC Board of Directors, Thomas L. Cline and Margaret Trew Cline Foundations, and Robert C. Hoffman Charitable Endowment Trust provided gifts that helped secure the campaign’s financing goals.
After a competitive bidding process, ACAC has secured local architect Gary Shaffer. In November 2010, ACAC purchased the building and Gary, along with the ACAC building committee, requested construction proposals from local and regional professionals. Renovation began in March 2011. The Center opened on October 29, 2011.
With the help of a low-interest loan, secured from the United States Department of Agriculture, ACAC estimates that it will be able to pay its mortgage, maintain the building and expand its programs without a deficit. Five-year budgets, based on actual ACAC growth trends and realistic projections, indicate that ACAC will be able to balance its budget and realize savings each year that will be placed into reserve.
The Adams County Arts Council has a long history of bringing the arts to more than 10,000 youth each year in classrooms around the county, bringing public events to more than 50,000 residents in neighborhoods, parks, and venues around town, and exhibiting award-winning visual arts in a perfectly suitable gallery on the Gettysburg College Campus. So, why does it need to raise $1.1 million to establish an arts education center?
This building will provide a safety net to current arts program cuts in our schools. Since 2001-2002, the time an average American child spends on arts education in school has dropped by thirty-five percent (35%). Further loss due to budget cuts, emphasis on testing, and the local freeze on hiring new arts teachers threatens the very existence of arts education for our youth. This building will provide instruction in music, dance, theater and the visual arts to ensure a place for students to discover and excel in the arts.
This building will bring new life and attention to Adams County. Gettysburg’s Third Ward now has Pennsylvania’s attention and resources to improve this beleaguered historically significant neighborhood. ACAC’s partnership with the Elm Street Project comes just at the right time to bring additional resources for this project. The Center will be the cornerstone of efforts to create a cleaner, safer and more welcoming site for visitors and residents alike. In return, ACAC receives additional resources and talents to bring new participation in the arts.
This building will provide economic stimulus at a time when we need it most. This project will not only provide short-term work for local tradesmen, but long-term teaching jobs and opportunities for local artists to sell their work. In addition, we expect Adams County will follow national trends to realize increased financial benefit for local businesses from increased arts activities.