SOUTHERN HILLS ARTS COUNCIL
Southern Hills Arts Council was formed on June 6, 1981 and incorporated
as a non-profit organization on June 29, 1981.
The organization was envisioned as a coordinating group for the arts
in Gallia, Jackson, Meigs, and Vinton Counties by Dr. Paul Hayes, who
was then President of Rio Grande College. Hayes persuaded arts leaders
from the four counties to join in the umbrella group. These leaders
included the remnants of an arts organization that had flourished and
waned in Jackson County. Hayes gave space and part-time personnel to
the emerging agency.
In 1983 the Council entered the Ohio Arts Council's Long Term Assistance
Program (LTAP), under the Minority Arts division. This program sent
a consultant to the group to assist in organizational growth. During
this year a CART week was held in Jackson County which depended heavily
on volunteers to organize and facilitate the various arts activities
held during this week. This program has become our Celebration of the
Arts Week, now held in the bridge week between July and August.
In 1984 the free Community Arts Newsletter was begun. The Newsletter
features information about the Council, its members, associated organizations
and artists, and a calendar of arts events within a comfortable driving
distance. It is published quarterly. Circulation has grown to 2,100.
In 1985, Southern Hills assumed sponsorship of the Foothills Art Festival
which was begun by Jeanne & Louis Jindra at their winery on Camba
Road. The Festival continued at this location, first inside the winery
and later in two huge tents on the winery's grounds, until the winery
closed and we moved the event to its current Canter's Cave location.
In 1986, with the guidance of a second LTAP consultant, Southern Hills
underwent a complete self-assessment and reorganization. Hayes was no
longer at Rio Grande and its new president did not share his enthusiasm
for the program. Staff and space were withdrawn. The Council had already
experience difficulty in fund raising, since our letterhead had a Rio
address and we were identified as a college adjunct. During this year
of evaluation, meetings were held in the counties to assess our strongest
support. It was clear that the center was in Jackson. A new constitution
was drawn and this mission was defined as to enhance the quality
of life by encouraging and stimulating the practice and appreciation
of the arts
area was delineated as Jackson County, Ohio and the surrounding
area. The intent was not to limit participation but to build on
the strong county support.
Thanks to a generous offer from Wellston business leaders Pauline and
Oryn Johnson, we opened Studio 93 on South Pennsylvania Avenue. The
name alluded to the fact that State Route 93 is the thread that links
the county together and satisfied our concern that the public understand
that our efforts are directed at all residents. Art classes were begun.
Home tours were launched.
In 1988 we began Free Summer Arts & Crafts Classes for Children.
We worked to forge alliances with governments, businesses, and civic
organizations in Jackson, Oak Hill, and Wellston to raise the necessary
funds. The program, in modified form, continues to this day to stimulate
the creative energies in our youth during the summer hiatus from school.
In this same year, we initiated the Jackson County High School Art Show,
an annual exhibition of the best work from students in Jackson, Oak
Hill, and Wellston High Schools. At first this exhibit revolved among
the three communities now it has a permanent home in the Markay Gallery.
Cash prizes are awarded with the Best of Show given in memory of Lilly
O. Goldstayn, artist, teacher, and gardener.
1988 began our sponsorship of the Apple Festival Art Show, held in conjunction
with the Apple Festival. It was then held at the Jackson City Library
and only during that week. Now it is part of the regular Gallery schedule
at the Markay with invitations mailed to nearly 100 local artists and
artisans to showcase our homegrown talent.
In 1990 we took our first step as a presenter when we were successful
in securing an Ohio Arts Council grant to bring "Out of the Red
Brush" to Jackson High School. We sold out the performance and
experienced great success. During this year, we moved Foothills Art
Festival to Canter's Cave 4-H Camp and Studio 93 into a small building
at 2 Evans Place, Jackson, graciously provided by Accent II Realty.
In 1991, thanks to the generosity of Phil Bowman, we opened the Arts
Annex, on Main Street in Jackson, across from the Courthouse, for a
period of 6 months. It gave us great visibility. We scheduled exhibitions,
classes, play readings, and receptions in the space.
In 1992 we assumed sponsorship of a Play Reading Circle in conjunction
with Dr. Greg Miller and the University of Rio Grande.
In 1993 the Council sponsored the establishment of the Southern Ohio
Community Band, under the direction of Dr. Richard Berry.
1994 saw the disbanding of the Community Band and the loss of the Play
Reading Circle. Hands-on arts activities directed toward children were
added to Foothills Art Festival. Studio 93 was moved to 237 Main Street
and we began paying rent. This intensified our search for a home. Classes
were suspended due to lack of space.
In 1995 the search for a home continued with focus on restoring buildings
in conjunction with either Jackson or Wellston. Consultant Rick Jones,
Fitton Center for the Arts, Hamilton, helped us define our goals. A
feasibility study was done with a $4,225 design arts grant from the
Ohio Arts Council, and the abandoned Markay Theatre in Jackson was selected.
In 1996 a
lease agreement was reached with the City of Jackson. We pay $1 per
year and in return it is our task to renovate, maintain, and operate
the Markay. Council members set out to return this Art Deco gem of a
building to good operating condition with an eye to renovation not restoration.
However, it was always the intent to save whatever original features
we could. Furthermore, we wished to work without accruing debt.
We applied for Phase I restoration funding from the Appalachian Public
Facilities Task Force and were awarded $123,000, thanks to assistance
from John Carey who has served us at the state level as Representative
and Senator. First business was to stablize the badly deteriorating
edifice, then move to creating, in phases, spaces usable for the arts.
We held the Markays grand re-opening June 1, 1997 as a community
cultural arts center. The lobby had been transformed into a Gallery
where we hold 9 visual and cultural arts exhibitions annually. The former
commercial space on the south side had been turned into a Meeting Room/Lending
Arts Library. In addition, we had created an office, handicapped accessible
rest room, and small kitchen.
All these spaces are well used. The Gallery provides a welcoming space
for a variety of public and private functions. With card tables and
chairs, we can accommodate many different kinds of events. The D. M.
Davis Male Voice Choir, under the direction of Wilbur McCormick, has
a home within these walls. Members have launched their own campaign
to purchase a Baby Grand Piano for the theatre. A Writers Guild is growing
by leaps and bounds and meets the 4th Monday of each month.
Fundraising is ongoing. We have tapped state, federal, and all other
likely public funding sources. We have been generously supported by
a host of supportive private citizens.
We are particularly pleased that we were able to restore to their full
glory the 6 larger-than-life bas-relief figures that were created by
Frank Boerder in 1940 when the Chakeres chain purchased the Markay from
local owners. They depict what people did in Jackson County at the time.
We have coal miner, foundryman, railroader, farmer, woman hoeing a garden,
and woman with basket of apples. They are important artistically and
historically. They will be reproduced in the bridge abutments when the
overpass is built over Route 35 at McCarty Lane.
As we have raised funds, we have continued the renovation with the goal
of presenting live performances in music, dance, and theatre as well
as screening classic films, and offering a space, linked to the latest
in technology, to be used for training, seminars, and public meetings.
Though far from complete, we are now using the auditorium for classes,
meetings, and intimate performances where audience and musicians share
As of July 2011, it appears an additional $541,000 will need to be spent
before we can experience the first full fledged live performance on
the stage. A portion of that is already in the bank.