Calhoun Arts Council Dissolves, Work Shifts To Battle Creek Community Foundation

Jul 17, 2014

Sabine LeDieu stands next to her sculpture she made with the help of students from Harper Creek Middle School.
Credit Rebecca Thiele, WMUK

Last week, the arts council announced it would disband after nearly 50 years of service.

Marshall artist Sabine LeDieu has done several public art sculptures geared toward environmental education with the help of grants from the Calhoun County Arts Council. She says the arts council was one of the few groups to fund county wide projects and county artists like herself. 

The council is also well known for starting the History in Color coloring books depicting the county's most memorable historical moments.

Ayesha Franklin is the former chairperson of the council. She says they could have continued the organization for another year, but there wasn’t enough funding to support the arts the way they need to be supported.

“We had started a grant program called Arts In Education for local arts teachers all throughout Calhoun County. And I happen to be from a rural community in Calhoun County and so I know how important those opportunities are, specifically in our rural communities because you don’t have many opportunities to ask for funding," she says.

"And so we were going to be able to continue those but maybe not on the scale we would have liked to. And again, we just want to make sure those opportunities are available to students throughout the county.”

Franklin says the Battle Creek Community Foundation already handles the Richard G. and Clara D. Phelps endowment fund of more than a million dollars. And by handing the work over to the community foundation, the council won’t have to pay for things like rent and personnel, leaving about $65,000 more for arts grants each year.

Brenda Hunt is the President and CEO of the Battle Creek Community Foundation. She says the foundation has even invited members of the council to be part of their arts grant making committee to make sure county-wide needs are being met.

“I know how tight funds are particularly on our very east side of the county over in Albion, where they’re restoring the Boehm Theatre," Hunt says. "And so I’m very excited to see what we can do to even tie together rural components of our community maybe with some of the more urban parts, utilizing the individual artist’s creativity.”

Anne Harrigan is the artistic director at the Music Center in Battle Creek and conducts the Battle Creek Symphony Orchestra. Last March, with the help of the arts council, the Music Center treated area school children to a free symphony concert with cirque performers.

Harrigan says the community foundation manages several different funds and she has no doubt they will adequately support the arts as well.

“For example, the Music Center has 19 different funds that are within the community foundation and each of them are for separate purposes. Some of them are chair sponsors, some of them are for impact, and they’re all very carefully accounted," says Harrigan. "So we know as recipient of the funds how careful they are to make sure that the funds go to the right sources.”

Franklin says she’s leaving the art council’s work in good hands, but after 50 years she’s sure locals will miss it.

“When you travel around Battle Creek and the county, you see murals that were sponsored by the arts council. You see—when you come in off of 66 into Battle Creek there by the Sojourner Truth statue—you see some beautiful artwork up on the bridge. That was a competition that the Arts and Industry council held where local school children were recognized,” she says. “And I’m certain that there are a lot of people in the community that were touched one way or another.”