By Polly Patrono-Carlson
In 1993, a chance meeting between Judy Marti and Mark Merrifield set into motion a change that would artistically effect Adams County. The early 1990s saw a financial crisis within the public schools in Adams County. On the ladder of importance, arts education was the first to go. The cuts in art funding within the schools was a call to action for Judy, Mark and a group of like-minded citizens.
It started with surveys. What would you want an arts council to do and what is needed? School administrators, teachers, and leaders in the community were asked and over 1,100 surveys, just from the schools, were sent back. It gave the members of the early Arts Council the affirmation that there was a need for the arts in the community. That survey provided a roadmap for the present day Adams County Arts Council.
The meetings began in homes and the library but soon there was a need for office space. After a small office in the late 90s, a larger office was rented on Carlisle Street and it would become the home of the Imagination Station in 2006, which provided children with classes in the arts.
It then became obvious that it was time for another outreach to the community. In 2008, the Big Canvass was sent out to the community in hopes of gaining information of what was wanted and needed for the future. The takeaway was more, more classes, more space, and more help for low income students.
The board started to look for a building and financing. They were able to secure a loan from the USDA and created a capital campaign. The hard work paid off and in 2011, the Arts Council building on Washington Street was opened. It staffed 6 people, offered more classes, more help for low income seniors and children, a space for art and a place for the community to gather.
Today, the ACAC continues to flourish. Chris Glatfelter, the executive director, sees the Arts Council helping with all aspects within the community. Programs with autistic children, veterans, and seniors are all areas being implemented and explored. She says, “art can improve the lives of people dealing with a variety of issues.” Programs with Wellspan at Gettysburg Hospital are underway and new classes at the center are supporting mind, body and spirit.
Because of the Adams County Arts Council, 736,000 people have been served in Adams County. The artist in residency program, first started in 1995, has provided arts education to over 200,000 students. The Arts Council’s mission to promote and share the value of the arts and cultivate an arts rich community has been flourishing since the 1990s. Judy Marti said it best, art is the “elasticity of the community brain.” We are so fortunate to have a place to foster that elasticity.
YOU can help ensure the ACAC can continue offering its quality programming and continue being the elasticity of the community by contributing to our current ABC campaign, which offers financial assistance to low-income children in our community.