I spent the better part of the last seven years on the board of a local nonprofit whose mission was, and is, to support the visual arts in my city. This was a start-up board and I was fortunate to be a member of the founding board and to serve as president twice. The goal was to open a center for the arts that made viewing, appreciating, purchasing and making art accessible to all. Lofty, right?
At times the goal seemed insurmountable, with numerous setbacks and several hard lessons along the way. But through the commitment of many talented people, the vision was acheived. The Georgetown Art Center opened in 2013 in the historic Fire Station 1 in our town. With gallery space, a large studio and a gift shop, the art center is another jewel in a town that has many wonderful assets.
This project took thousands of volunteer hours over the years, from myself and from many others. It was like starting a corporations from scratch with no capital and no employees. But the value to the community is immeasurable. Compelling, intelligent visual art is housed in our community and with free entry, anyone can have access six days a week. The center, with many free events for children and adults, is a hive of activity in the name of art. In the first year, many people have traveled to see The Georgetown Art Center from all aroudn the state and beyond. Vibrancy, cultural literacy and community have been expanded in the town in ways that are yet to be defined.
Volunteerism is vital to the growth of communities, but it is also an element of personal growth for the individuals who donate their time. Because of those years I spent working toward a goal that would serve my city, I learned many things. I learned how a municipality functions, how to present a project to city officials and see it through the process. I learned how much I had to learn about managing a large project and then I got to work on educating myself. I learned that many people will help you if you ask, if you make it as much fun as possible and if you make every effort to show your appreciation.
During those years, I made many friends and grew exponentially as a human on the planet. I learned to make a graceful exit—when I’d accomplished what I’d promised and when the entity had a life of its own. Most importantly, I learned that the value of community work is in bringing people and ideas together to improve the quality of life for all. And that is priceless.