GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - With almost six decades of arts promotion and education already under its multi-disciplinary roof, the Grand Junction Art Center on Seventh Street is gearing up for its biggest birthday celebration yet.
"In September, it will be 60 years," said The Art Center's Executive Director and Curator Camille Silverman. "We're looking at doing a major membership drive with (new) benefit packages being introduced."
Plus, September's First Friday event in 2013 will be held as a birthday party, Silverman added.
Also known as the Western Colorado Center for the Arts, Grand Junction's Art Center has come a long way since its creation in the early 1950s. It was originally founded with a volunteer staff and a focus on both the visual and performing arts. And it started in a little blue house, a much smaller building than its current location with lots of classroom space.
These days, the make-up of The Art Center is quite different, Silverman said. With six paid, full-time staffers, two part-timers and a rotating group of teachers, the nonprofit organization has grown a lot. And with 300-plus volunteers and constantly changing artist displays, programming has additionally expanded.
"Theater has gone by the wayside," Silverman added, though performance art still has a place at The Art Center on a regular basis.
One staff member, Rachel Egelston, joined The Art Center's official staff roster in 2011 in a paid, part-time position after volunteering for many years.
"She has grown her programs and classes so much that she is now on full time as of 2012," Silverman said.
Egelston said she's enjoyed helping others through her connection to the arts, especially those taking classes at The Art Center.
"Over the years I have been able to experience many special moments," Egelston said, "like the MDS (Mesa Developmental Services) student working on assemblage. Getting close to finishing, he raises and shouts, 'I am a winner.'"
Egelston also remembers a young student in Art Club "painting a landscape (and) creating blue trees; a teacher's aid (told) her, 'Trees are not blue.' And she replied, 'In my world they are.'"
Having displays, classes and programs that appeal to a variety of age groups and interests is also crucial to The Art Center's creative vision.
"We want to give everyone a voice," Silverman said.
By inviting 20-year-old artists to display with 60-year-olds, it makes the range of work stronger and more unique, she added.
Like most nonprofits in the valley, finding innovative ways to fund The Art Center is also at the top of Silverman's list. She said the fiscal budget has stayed about the same over the last three years ($375,000 on average), with the current operations budget coming in closer to $380,000. Funding comes in a variety of ways, too - membership (10%), donations/sponsorships (25%), tuition (25%), art supplies and commission (25%), admission (2%), facility rental (4%), and investments/other (9%).
On top of funding its operations budget, there's always a need for more capital fundraising opportunities in hopes of making upgrades to the aging facility, Silverman noted.
"We want to get handicapped-accessible bathrooms and technology upgrades," she said.
Having upgraded bathrooms is particularly important to The Art Center's "Artability: Arts for All" program, offering art classes designed for folks with a variety of challenges - from mental and social to physical.
"By supporting this program, these funders and volunteers help bring ongoing artistic experiences and growth for close to 200 of our community each month," The Art Center's recent newsletter said.
Other adult and kids classes currently being offered include drawing, ceramics, watercolor, oil and acrylic painting, youth camps, plus contemporary Japanese/Chinese brush painting.
For more information about The Art Center, visit www.gjartcenter.org or call 970-243-7337.