A Lost Art?

A Lost Art?
The Vermillion Area Arts Council faces an uncertain future after its board of directors abruptly decided Tuesday to resign.

Former board member Jim Wilson announced in an e-mail sent to the Plain Talk and other members of the community that he, President Helen Burton, Vice President Stephen Yar-brough, Secretary Elizabeth Abbott, and board members Tom Reasoner, Tim Hanson and Paulette Wipf had stepped down.

Wilson had served as the board's treasurer.


To be procedurally correct, first Wilson resigned, and the remaining board members selected his replacement. The same practice was used to seat a new secretary and a new member on the board.

Roger Jeck is the VAAC board's new treasurer. Susan Heggestad is secretary and Jill Caraway is the new board member.

Wilson assumes that these three individuals will be responsible for finding a president, vice president and other needed board members for the arts council.

"The VAAC Board has been trying to explore alternative methods of providing a safe, comfortable and accessible space to promote and grow the arts in Vermillion. For the past month rational discourse has been made impossible," Wilson stated in his e-mail, "because some members of the arts council as well as interested non-members have preferred to engage in malicious, intemperate personal attacks against the board and thus prevented discussion of the issues.

"The board members resigned in order to allow other

interested community members to discuss the future of both programs and facilities.

Thanks to all of you who have supported the arts council in the past," he added.

Controversy arose after a letter to the editor, written by Rebecca Terk, was published in the Feb. 8 Plain Talk.

Terk wrote that the arts council board had recently raised the question of selling the existing Washington Street Arts Center and Community Garden lot.

She also stated that the board has also secured a $500 six month purchase option on another building in the city to serve as a possible replacement for the 100-year-old former church building that serves as the arts center.

The executive committee of the VAAC board replied to Terk with a letter of their own, published in last week's Plain Talk.

They stated that Terk used a selective and limited interpretation of the feasibility study to contend that the costs of repairing deficiencies in the arts center that have been outlined in a feasibility study are overstated with no evidence to show that this is true. She further states that many of the repair and maintenance projects could easily be done with volunteer labor and donated material.

The board stated that many of those deficiencies, including installation of an elevator for handicapped accessibility, handicapped bath-rooms, asbestos removal, structural tower repair and air conditioning, are beyond the scope of local donations or volunteer labor.

"I think the arts council has in the past three or four years been able to provide more and more services in the form of classroom assistance, the artist bio project, the classes that are taught at the art center, our ceramics classes, and certainly it would be a wonderful thing if all of those continued," Wilson told the Plain Talk Wednesday. "At this point, it is totally in someone else's hands."

Should the new board decide to continue with the VAAC, he is certain that its goals in the community will remain unchanged.

That new board, however, will face some formidable challenges. There is no easy fix to the structural problems contained in its present home.

"Is it the best place for the arts council, and is the mission of the Vermillion Area Arts Council to preserve an historic building or is it to provide arts opportunities to the community? That's a question that certainly has to be addressed," Wilson said.

He said the major task of the arts council should be providing the best available space to promote the arts and art opportunities through classroom activity and exhibit space.

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