Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center Reaches a Milestone

vcac officers
Members of the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center work on new budgets for 2019. Previously, they were working under the aegis of the Downtown Development Authority. They are seated, from left: Syd Bastos and Rex Cummings. Standing, from left: Lisa Beams and Jake Munson.

By Sue Moore

The Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center (VCAC) has been delivering artistic and cultural experiences for the greater Vicksburg residents and its visitors for over three years as a project of the Vicksburg Downtown Development Authority (DDA). The Center just received its 501(c)(3) nonprofit designation from the IRS in December and is now an independent entity able to receive tax-deductible donations.

“This nonprofit designation will make a big difference in the future operations of the Arts Center,” said Syd Bastos, its acting board president and executive director. “There are more grants that we can apply for with the nonprofit designation that will allow us to try new concepts and reach out to the greater South Kalamazoo County community.”

The Arts Center was organized in 2015 under the direction of Kathleen Hoyle, then the director of the DDA. The fledgling group went through several changes in staffing and purpose until Bastos and Lisa Beams came along as part-time staff three years ago.

They developed a wide variety of arts and culture programs and events including the Coffeehouse Concerts, Art Exhibits, the summer Arts Stroll and the Destination Dinner Series, a celebration of arts, culture food and music from Ireland, Ukraine, Scandinavia and Italy. Beams was charged with recruiting artists to display and sell their art works at the gallery space, first at 200 S Main Street and then at 101 E Prairie.

When the construction of their space at 101 E Prairie began, the VCAC relocated its office to the lower level of the Community Center. Artworks were returned to artists for safekeeping. Despite the absence of a storefront, “the community made it clear to us that this experiment in support of the arts world had staying power,” Bastos explained.

“2019 will be a transitional time for the organization,” Bastos reported. “We were focused on events and we still will be, but we want to provide more educational opportunities with the arts. First, we will be adding a summer arts camp for teens. This camp will be developed with input from high school students and ultimately run by ‘graduates’ of the teen camp, giving them a taste for event and curriculum planning and arts administration.

“Second, visitors of the VCAC told us they want more experiential learning, so we will be adding more classes and workshops this year. Finally, an exciting interactive gallery exhibit is under development now that will provide hands-on, guided learning experiences for visitors.”

The next three months will be critical as the board takes full control of the operation of the Arts Center. The board will be adding new members and setting its short and mid-range strategy, Bastos explained. Board members include Treasurer Rex Cummings, Secretary Amy Snow, Jodi Noble, Jake Munson, and Bastos as president.

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