EAST PRAIRIE - Funds from the Missouri Arts Council bring out unexplored gifts in people, according to George DeMyers, and may have lasting benefits on the community as a whole.
"We are trying to get people to focus more on their talents," DeMyers said. "Help people do more than just be idle."
DeMyers, a retired art teacher, heads the Susanna Wesley Family Learning Center's minority arts program which is among those in the area recently approved for funding from the Missouri Arts Council for fiscal year 2004, which began July 1.
In its first phase of grants to nonprofit organizations throughout Missouri, MAC made 272 awards totaling $2,037,310. The $10,840 from the Missouri Arts Council will go to continue an already established program, according to DeMyers.
"It's been active for about the past three years," he said. "We're trying to get the youth and adults interested in the fine arts." By providing something worthwhile to do with their time, "we hope to prevent crime by getting them into something like this," DeMyers said.
The program offers a variety of arts for participants of all ages. "They are for both youth and adults," DeMyers said. "As young as they can pick up their pencil and draw on up to 100 years old if they can come in and draw."
Usually the adults also serve as volunteers and assist with the youth, he added, and said the classes make a great family activity as well.
"Mondays we used to have a dance component, but this year we changed to a theater component," said DeMyers.
The theater class is taught by Tamela Trayhorn from 5-7 p.m. at Susanna Wesley North on Commercial Street in Charleston.
From 5-7 p.m. Tuesdays, DeMyers teaches drawing at Perry Chapel on M Street on the west side of Charleston.
Willie Epps teaches a painting class from 5-7 p.m. Wednesdays at Perry Chapel, and from 9-11 a.m. Saturdays Jerry McDowell Sr. teaches an instrumental music class in his home at 1112 Warren Street in Charleston. "A lot of our young people are learning to play the piano," DeMyers said.
In addition to these four ongoing weekly activities, the funds also go toward special events, Myers said.
"Mr. McDowell will give a spring instrumental concert - it's usually in May along with our spring youth art show," he said.
Another yearly event is the black history art show scheduled in February during Black History Month.
"It consists of adults participants and former residents of the minority community of Charleston," said DeMyers. "It also includes former students who were very talented and the offspring of former Charleston and Mississippi County residents."
"In the past we've had participation by our dance troupe at each one of these, but this year we will have participation by our theater component," he added. "They usually do a skit or something."
DeMyers said his program would not exist without the MAC funding, and encouraged those interested in promoting the arts to write their legislators and ask them to keep MAC going.
He also gave credit to the Susanna Wesley Family Learning Center. "They're a great organization; they do so much for the community," DeMyers said. "Martha Black is a great lady."
Among the other area organizations receiving MAC funding in this phase is Sikeston, Missouri, Arts Inc. which was approved for $3,801.
MAC's grants and operating expenses are drawn from $3.9 million received from the Missouri Cultural Trust and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The Missouri Arts Council, the state's grant-making agency for the arts, provides approximately $3 million in assistance annually to nonprofit organizations throughout the state. A division of the Missouri Department of Economic Development, the Missouri Arts Council is the second oldest, state-funded arts agency in the country.
Funds are granted to support programs in arts education, arts services, community arts, disciplines (dance, electronic media, festivals, literature, multidiscipline, music, theater, visual arts), established institutions, folk arts, mid-sized organizations, mini grants, minority arts, organizational development, and touring.
Organizations interested in applying for a grant for their art projects are encouraged to contact the Missouri Arts Council toll free at (866) 407-4752 or visit the MAC web site at www.missouriartscouncil.org.