MILLERSBURG -- Representatives of the Holmes Center for the Arts delivered an informational presentation to the Holmes County commissioners on Monday, Feb. 13, to seek assistance in finding the organization a permanent home.
Holmes Center for the Arts Executive Director Holley Johnson and board president Cheryl Shaver and secretary Kelli Grassbaugh spoke with commissioners about the programs offered, including dance, music and visual arts; the brief history; and the successful programs the center has developed in its two years since being incorporated as a nonprofit organization.
"Our mission is to provide quality education and performance opportunities in the arts to people of all backgrounds in a wholesome family-oriented environment," Johnson said. "That's truly important to us."
Johnson explained there are four different programs offered through the Holmes Center for the Arts: dance, music, visual arts and theater.
"We currently have 114 children taking dance classes, many of them taking multiple classes," Johnson said. "They are taking classes two to four days a week. We also have 32 adult ballroom students, and many of them are taking multiple classes as well.That's been one of our surprises, and it keeps growing."
She told of the first-ever full length ballet being performed in Holmes County in December, as the HCA put on the "Nutcracker," to the delight of 1,400 people.
"We're excited about this because we're bringing kids together from East and West Holmes and they are working together," Johnson said. "Plus we had audience members from all over."
Shaver said she felt the "Nutcracker" performances really helped put Holmes Center for the Arts on the map.
Commissioner Rob Ault pointed out that he had friends from Wayne County come to the ballet and tell him how much they enjoyed it.
Johnson spoke of a new strings program for kids that has begun through a grant from Triway educational services and the Ohio Arts Council.
"We have about 60 students signed up for these free classes to learn the violin, viola and cello," she said.
The Holmes Center for the Arts also features adult choir, children's choir and many visual arts classes.
"We have recently partnered with the Jobs and Family Services to do a class with at-risk teens after school," Johnson said. "These are kids we're trying to keep off the streets and give them something creative to do in the evening."
There is also an after-school art class for free and reduced lunch students at Killbuck Elementary School, as well as portrait drawing and landscape and nature classes aimed at the Amish community.
"We're trying to provide things to do in Holmes County through the arts to enrich the community," Johnson said.
Funding for the Holmes Center for the Arts is mostly through tuition for the classes, but Johnson pointed out that the HCA has received $28,000 in grants ($25,000) from outside the community, and more than $50,000 in donations and corporate sponsorships.
Commissioner Joe Miller asked about the current location at 164 N. Washington St.
"We have classes there. It's a neat place, but we're already growing out of that space," Johnson said. "We use the whole building. We share it with a church. We have classes stepping on each other, and that problem will continue because we're growing."
Johnson told the commissioners that they have some real needs as far as a building goes.
"We are planning a building fund," she said. "We are currently looking for land or a building to renovate."
"Are you asking us to help you find a place?" Miller asked.
"Yes, we need a place," Johnson said. "And we also want you to think of us if you are considering funding the arts in Holmes County. We'd be interested in sharing a building."
The Ohio State University architecture school has had a class of 60 juniors design an arts center for Holmes County.
Ault asked if the HCA could partner with Akron University/Wayne College, which has also sought a building in the past.
The commissioners said they would talk with their planning development people and see what can be done.
"It's not really easy finding available buildings in Holmes County," Miller said. "And when you do find them, the price is high."
Johnson said she has looked at various places that might work temporarily, but may not as they continue to grow.
"I've heard a lot of good things about this, and I think's it's a great thing for Holmes County," Miller said, pointing out the difficulty the county faces in trying to get doctors to come to the community.
"Stuff like this will help the hospital bring doctors in," he said. "Doctors don't want to go to small communities. They go to the big communities that have things like this."
Ault agreed, noting it is a good way to keep kids off the streets and away from drugs.
Reporter Kevin Lynch can be reached at 330-674-5676 or email@example.com.