Jefferson City’s Cultural Arts Commission works to bring art and artists to the forefront.

Photography by Xavier Jordan

The sculptures at several city roundabouts. The arch at the Greenway trailhead off East McCarty. The historical mural across from the courthouse on High Street. Each of these art projects have come to life thanks to the partnership between talented artists, the City of Jefferson, and its Cultural Arts Commission.

Jefferson City created an ad-hoc cultural arts committee in 2008. By 2009, an ordinance was signed to create the Cultural Arts Commission. “This group strives to foster an appreciation of the arts in Jefferson City and provides funding for worthy projects like sculptures and performing arts,” says Amy Schroeder, community relations manager for Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry, which oversees the commission.

The City of Jefferson bequeathed the Cultural Arts Commission to the parks department in 2016 with encouragement from department director Todd Spalding. “Todd saw an opportunity to create value and inspire a sense of community by providing JC parks’ staff and land resources to this group’s work,” says Schroeder.

GRANTS UP FOR GRABS

The city budgets money each year from the general fund to support public art projects. The Cultural Arts Commission uses those funds to support their mini grant program, an application process where local arts groups request $500 to $1,000 to support their work or a specific project or event.

“We’re lucky our city sets aside funds every year specifically for this purpose,” says Cultural Arts Commission Chair Katy Lacy. “It’s the Commission’s job to make sure those funds impact our community in a meaningful way.”

One of the groups that has benefited from those mini grants is the Southside Philharmonic Orchestra. Thanks to these funds from the Cultural Arts Commission, SPO leaders can compensate their participating musicians with a nominal stipend. The funds also allow SPO to make some of their dreams, like collaborating with Dancer’s Alley to host their first-ever performance of “The Nutcracker” with a live orchestra in December 2017, a reality.

Gary Sanders with the Southside Philharmonic Orchestra encourages other local artists and performance groups to take advantage of the commission’s funds. “Go for it! It’s an easy process to complete, and the CAC has been absolutely wonderful and attentive,” he says. “I can’t say anything but praise about the CAC and their determination to help the local artistic community.”

“We still have a healthy budget — our fiscal year ends October 31,” says Schroeder. “We need people to know we’re here and there are funds available. Many artists have to provide their time, resources, and materials for free on community art projects. While they’re often used for that, these mini grants are a way to show artists that our city appreciates their skills and talents.”

WHAT’S NEXT

“We love our mini-grant program, but we’re looking for ways to be more proactive as a commission and contribute to arts and culture in our community,” says Lacy. “One project I’m especially excited about is the possibility of a public mural that encourages interactions on social media and promotes our city and the arts.”

Think of the interactive, participatory murals you’ve seen on Facebook or Instagram or on your latest trip to Nashville. You can also Google international street artist Kelsey Montague and her work to see people posing in front of beautiful angel or butterfly wings, becoming part of the art itself.

“We are looking for a property owner somewhere where there’s a decent amount of foot traffic — maybe downtown — where we could use a wall as a canvas,” says Schroeder. “Once we find the location, we’ll put out a call for artists to get their ideas.”

In 2018, the Cultural Arts Commission also began sponsoring events, including Porchfest JCMO, which took place along Capitol Avenue in May, as well as Thomas Jefferson Day, in April, celebrating our city’s namesake and his 275th birthday.

The future also means more art in our parks. A complete park renovation is set to begin this fall at Community Park at the corner of Dunklin and Lafayette near Lincoln University. Those plans also call for a seven-piece sculpture series dedicated to the rich history of the surrounding area.

The Cultural Arts Commission continues to look for new ways to be involved in our community, new ways to stay relevant, and new ways to expand their reach to improve access to the arts for Jefferson City residents.

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