Despite the untimely passing of local artist John Moore in May, local residents are continuing to work on his goal of developing an arts center for Elizabethton and Carter County. Members of the Carter County Arts Council are seeking support from elected leaders and the community in order to ensure that Moore’s vision for a center dedicated to visual, performing and fine arts will become a reality.
Moore, who died of an aggressive form of large-cell carcinoma on May 9 at the age of 46, moved to Elizabethton in 2011 from his home state of California. Prior to moving to East Tennessee, Moore worked in the San Diego area as an artist, a vocation that he continued after moving to the area.
After relocating to Elizabethton, Moore recognized the wide range of artistic talent in the numerous communities of Carter County. Despite the abundance of individuals who possess artistic ability, he also realized there was no central location for them to present their talents. Steve Burwick of the Carter County Arts Council said Moore “saw the potential for the arts in the community. He saw there was talent here, but it was all fractured in the different parts of the county.”
Moore contacted numerous officials in Carter County and the City of Elizabethton regarding his concept and dream for an arts center. As part of that effort, Moore spoke with members of the Carter County Commission, the Elizabethton City Council, City Mayor Curt Alexander, County Mayor Leon Humphrey, officials with the local Chamber of Commerce and Carter County Tomorrow President Tom Anderson. Anderson has stated that an arts center could potentially lead to a positive growth in the area’s tourism industry and the local effort to revitalize Elizabethton’s Downtown and Riverfront areas.
Before his death earlier this year, Burwick commented that Moore had worked tirelessly to bring local artists together through his dream of an arts center in Elizabethton. The plan, which originally called for the center to be located at the site of the old Wal-Mart/Magic Mart building along Elk Avenue, would repurpose the facility as a performing, visual and fine arts center for the community. On numerous occasions, Moore argued that such a center would spur economic growth, especially in the area of tourism dollars.
Burwick also said that Moore’s foresight led the Arts Council to seek a 501-C-3 non-profit status for the proposed arts center. Working with the Northeast Tennessee Private Industry Council, Moore and other advocates of the facility were able to secure non-profit tax status for the project.
Despite Moore’s death, Burwick said the Carter County Arts Council is continuing to take the necessary steps to ensure that his vision for an arts center is realized. The council has formed a “Vision for the Arts” steering committee, which is picking up where Moore’s effort ended. The steering committee is currently comprised of Burwick, Marley Foley, Cody McQueen and Joe Pinza. The four-member steering committee is also receiving assistance from local actor and director Scott Snell, who is acting in an advisory capacity.
In addition to securing an adequate facility to house the arts center, the Carter County Arts Council’s overall vision for the project is multi-faceted. “The goals of this project include providing educational opportunities for all ages, raising funds for art education scholarships, creating gallery space for aspiring artists to create and display their work and a performing arts venue for local, regional, national and international actors,” said Burwick.
Advocates of the arts center are also hopeful that the facility could host guest artists and craftsmen to display their work as well as provide demonstrations and classes for visitors to the facility.
Since Moore’s death, the Arts Council has learned that Wal-Mart—the current owners of the building proposed to house the arts center—have stated they are no longer interested in selling or leasing the building for the project. While an alternative location to house the project has yet to be located, Burwick said the Arts Council is considering the possibility of finding a building in Elizabethton’s Historic Downtown District. “We would like to find a potential location in the historic district that could be renovated for use as the arts center,” he noted.
The Vision for the Arts Steering Committee has also been charged with the responsibility of creating ideas for potential fundraising projects to secure the necessary capital for the center. Burwick said they have considered several types of fundraising campaigns. He noted that the necessary money could be obtained from donations from private citizens and local businesses, state and federal grants and gifts from corporations and non-profit agencies.
The proposed arts center could also generate revenue through box office sales from plays, musical concerts and other special events. “Additional money could be gained from entry fees for art displays and exhibitions, sponsorships and office space rentals,” Burwick said.
Burwick concluded by commenting that Moore wrote an open letter to the community shortly before he died. “People of all ages are looking for an outlet for their creative expression. As a lifelong artist myself, I can identify with this personal longing. Through Vision for the Arts, we hope to provide them with the keys to a true, positive life,” Moore wrote.