By Max Hrenda
To be or not to be, that is the question … for the formation of an arts council in Carter County.
For the past several years, artists and art enthusiasts have tried their hand at bringing art to the forefront of Carter County. The most recent effort began on Feb. 25, when Johnson City resident Scott Snell attempted to organize the latest rendition of a Carter County Arts Council.
“The purpose of the council, in part, is to organize the artists locally,” Snell said. “The county itself is filled with a very diverse group of artists. By providing organization to these people, it will open them up to the possibility of grants and other things to assist them in their art.”
Along with showcasing the work of some of the area’s local artists, others say there could be economic benefits to establishing an arts council within the county.
Tom Anderson, president of the joint economic development body Carter County Tomorrow, said arts councils can be instrumental in attracting special events.
“A lot of times, an arts council is there to bring culture or entertainment in,” Anderson said. “I see the value in it. I think it would be good for the county, just for quality of life, if there was an arts council that was constantly pursuing things.”
Although an arts council has yet to be established in Carter County, some local artists have still found outlets for their work. Since Nov. 13, 1970, fine arts practitioners in the six northeastern counties of Tennessee have had an opportunity to display their work through the efforts of the Watauga Valley Art League.
Even though the WVAL has showcased many artists throughout the years, according to WVAL President David Kramer, it is fundamentally different from an arts council.
“We’re just a group of artists; we have art shows, and a place for us to display our stuff,” Kramer said. “An arts council coordinates events for a lot of different disciplines besides the fine artist, like musical, theatrical (or) dance.”
Although there are cultural and financial benefits that can result from a local arts council, like many community projects, finding funding is the first step.
“Anything in this type of venture is strictly money-motivated,” Kramer said. “It’ll happen if there’s money available, either from the city, county, state, or a donation. That’s the only way these things really take on a life of their own.”