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Originally published: 2012-09-13 13:12:03
Last modified: 2012-09-13 13:12:03

Avery Arts Council dissolves

Matthew Hundley / (matthew.hundley@averyjournal.com)

Avery County will soon lose its greatest advocate for the arts in its schools and communities. 

After 35 years of operation, Avery Arts Council will dissolve as soon as North Carolina Secretary of State approves the board of directors’ unanimous decision to disband, which came as the result of lack of support from within the council, according to Gallery Director Caitlin Morehouse. Toe River Arts Council, based in Mitchell and Yancey counties, will likely take over Avery Arts Council’s remaining assets to provide programming in Avery County, Morehouse said.

“It has truly just run out of steam,” said Morehouse, who described how lack of participation led to a breakdown in fundraising and services. When the vote was made, only three active members remained of a board that began with 10. The situation became critical when Treasurer Linda Sutton and President Terry Alexander resigned at the board’s July meeting. According to Morehouse, the remaining members, Jennifer Franz, Heidi Fisher and Hampton Sheets, could not see a way to rally the organization with so little support.

“The decision to dissolve was with the intention that one of our neighboring arts councils would ultimately continue to provide programming services. That was our hope,” Morehouse said.

As per state requirements, another community arts organization must take over administration of any funds left in Avery Arts Council’s control, as well as its annual allotment from North Carolina Arts Council, and use those funds to provide arts programming within Avery County within two years. Neighboring Toe River Arts Council has agreed to take on this extra administrative responsibility. TRAC is under no obligation to incorporate Avery County into its own service area. Rather it has volunteered to provide programming using the funds already in place in Avery County. 

“They are basically doing us a favor,” Morehouse said. “There is some hope from many people in this community and people at the state level, but whether or not they will continue programming or go into programming full time after the two years is a hope of many people, but it is not certain.”

According to Morehouse, the exact amount of those remaining funds is yet to be determined, as the organization must still settle all of its accounts as well as all accounting and legal fees inherent in the dissolution. According to Morehouse, the council is solvent, and will be able to fully settle all accounts before the dissolution is complete.

One of the services that will disappear along with the Avery Arts Council is its gallery in Linville, which served as a venue for member artists to display their work and for Avery residents to witness the artistic talent within their community. 

“I would like to emphasize that the reason the Avery Gallery is closing is not due to lack of sales,” Morehouse noted. “On the contrary, all things considered, our gallery has done pretty well. We get a steady stream of visitors due to our ideal location, and visitors really like the works displayed here.”

The gallery will close at the end of September, and most of its merchandise will be gone by Saturday, Sept. 15, the deadline for artists to collect their work.

Depending on TRAC’s decisions about funding, other services that will go with the council include the Quilt Trail, art classes and shows. Morehouse acknowledged that, in recent years, the programming provided by the council has dwindled along with its support. 

“I feel like it has truly just run out of steam over time. There are many people in the community who have been active in the past, but they have tired,” Morehouse said. “There have been a lot of tenacious people associated with it over the last 35 years. There has certainly been a lot of people who have sacrificed and given to Avery Arts Council over that time.”