By Sue Moore
The old saying, “You’ve come a long way baby,” accurately describes the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center (VCAC) as it turns three years old. It’s ready to fly on its own, applying for nonprofit status with the IRS.
It was created through the Vicksburg Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the efforts of its director at the time, Kathleen Hoyle. Her vision for the downtown included making the arts central to its development. In doing so, she called local artists together for a meeting in 2013 to determine what kind of interest there might be in a formal structure for the arts.
In August, 2015, it opened as the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center, located next door to Rawlinson’s Appliances at 200 S. Main Street. Growing pains included requests for grants from the Vicksburg Foundation that kept it alive initially. The DDA’s funds could not be used for this purpose.
Several paid directors were recruited along with volunteers but left because they needed steadier employment. “They were great contributors to the foundation of the arts center,” according to Syd Bastos, who took over leadership in late 2015. She was joined by Lisa Beams in early 2016. Together this dynamic duo has built the organization from the ground up, said village President Bill Adams.
Now it’s time to see the groundwork come to fruition, according to Bastos. She mailed the application for 501c3 legal status to the IRS in June and expects to hear of its acceptance within six months. In order to apply successfully, a new board of directors needed to be chosen and seated. This took place in April with Mariann Tsilis-Barnard as its first president.
“We hope to create a sustainable model to fuse with the vision of the community,” Tsilis-Barnard said. “It matters what we do next. We want to be a part of a happening place with a sense of pride from the community we serve. The board will follow nonprofit arts organizations’ proven practices to bring their ideas and experiences to the table. We will ask, ‘what are we?’ within the definition of arts, be it music, drama, design and visual.”
Although Tsilis-Barnard has only been a south county resident for one year, she has volunteered to get involved. She has a brother who lives nearby and thus she and her husband had been visiting often from their home base of Quincy, Ill. She has spent many years in the arts community there, first as coordinator of the Quincy Fine Arts organization and then as executive director of the Quincy Art Center. She is also a jewelry designer, an eco-consultant and event organizer. Now the couple has moved full-time to the Vicksburg area.
Others appointed to the board include: Rex Cummings, treasurer; Amy Snow, secretary and board members Michaelene Glowacz, Jake Munson, Kristen Simpson and Jodi Vanderweele-Noble.