Group preps plans for new arts center

Group preps plans for new arts center
(Source: WMBF News)
(Source: WMBF News)

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Baby steps for a new arts center are underway.  The groups in charge of making it happen said its purpose will be to boost the area's cultural growth and provide a learning and working place for artists.  Conway Cultural Development Corporation and Create! Conway have partnered to breathe life into the long-planned idea for an arts center.

"It's a proposal we have on the table, and council will have to evaluate it...we haven't had any conversations with them, yet," Conway Cultural Development Corporation president Dennis Stevens said.  "We're digging deeper into what the needs are of the community and how we can match that up with funding.  So that's sort of a process that's going to be happening until the end of June.  I think by July 1, for the fiscal year, we'll have a good picture of what we aim to do...but right now it's all in the process," Stevens said.

Arts centers in Spartanburg, S.C. and Mauldin, S.C. have been models looked at by the groups so far, Stevens said.  CCDC is a non-profit, created out of a 1999 long-term cultural development plan for Conway.  Also in that plan's documents, obtained by WMBF News, is a plan for an arts center to serve local artisans and the public.

CCDC and Create! Conway held a joint workshop in late January to identify cultural strengths and weaknesses in the community.  From that workshop, the idea to focus on an arts center blossomed.

An excerpt from the press release states:

"While dozens of possible initiatives were discussed during the morning sessions, the afternoon was devoted to work by break-out groups to address initial priorities selected by the participants:Establishment of a community arts center that would provide classes, a gallery for use by area artisans and artists, a makers space, a place where people with similar interests, can gather handwork together to share ideas, equipment, and knowledge, along with room for affordable studio space for artists. The CCDC has submitted an application to the City of Conway for funding to be used to establish and sustain an arts and cultural center within the city."

Stevens said he's talked with the city's finance director about the plans so far.

"I know the city has a lot of plans in motion to revitalize the downtown.  Our thought is that, you know, arts and cultural focus ties directly into that charge to revitalize.  So, we're interested in partnering with any community organizations or other municipalities in Horry County that choose that those are the kinds of values they want to align themselves with," Stevens said.

Stevens said an arts center could be built in downtown Conway or on the riverfront.  He also said smaller arts centers could be scattered throughout the city and county to serve the same purpose.  Stevens hopes an arts center could also open larger plans to improve livability through streetscapes, bicycle paths and more local grocers and food markets.

"Using arts and culture as a way, but focusing on this bigger picture of healthy neighborhoods, building livability into the tourists a place where they can come and really have a sense of place, that's what we're interested in.," Stevens said.

Stevens said the center would be open to all arts classes and a mutual workspace for artists.  As far as finding the money, he said a plan will be presented to council with hopes to be included in next fiscal year's general budget.

This is a story WMBF News will continue to follow.

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