Painting a Rosier Picture

GGAC looks to rebound from pandemic

By George Piper

Entering 2020, the Greater Greenwood Arts Council found itself in a good position to continue its mission of advancing and promoting the visual, performing and literary arts in the Greenwood community. The organization wrapped up its first decade in existence with two strong ongoing events — Art for the Ages and Art on the Trailway — and looked at extending a scholarship program for area students.
Then the pandemic hit.
As with other volunteer groups, GGAC saw scheduled events canceled amid the uncertainty caused by COVID. With no projects in the pipeline, board members’ interest also waned. A dedicated group of a dozen or so committed people dwindled to around five by the time health officials lifted restrictions.
“Unfortunately, the pandemic brought everything to a stop for a long enough period that we lost the interest of many board members,” says GGAC board member Heather Diers. “We have a strong core of people who still believe in the mission, and we feel confident that we will begin growing again as our lives get back to some sort of normal.”
One return to normalcy is underway in 2021. Art on the Trailway begins its bi-annual public art display on Greenwood area walking trails. The project, started in 2014 along the Polk Hill Trail and operated in conjunction with the Greenwood Parks & Recreation Department, displays 3-D sculptures selected from artists’ applications received from around the country.
A juried panel is convened to review the types of sculptures submitted for consideration, the durability of the pieces to the outside elements, and the emotional and cultural impact they will have on the viewers based on the artists’ statements. Over the years, the panel has selected works from local artists as well as those from out of state.
“The Art on the Trail installments have historically and will continue to have a positive impact on the local community by enhancing their outdoor experiences on the trail and vehicular roadway through the addition of public art,” says Jen Winget, assistant director for Greenwood Parks & Recreation.
GGAC members, along with participants from other local arts organizations, assist Greenwood Parks in choosing the artwork. “We value the artist experience and knowledge they bring to the project, as well as the community network that they have to help us acquire submissions,” Winget says. “We are grateful for the GGAC’s funding assistance for the program to continue to provide public art opportunities throughout Greenwood.”
Another successful past effort, the Art for the Ages community art show, is scheduled to resume in 2022. The Greenwood Public Library hosts the finished work, with submissions ranging from elementary school students to artists past age 90.
The show is an opportunity for artists of all ages and ability levels to engage with art and with their community, says Cheryl Dobbs, executive director of Greenwood Public Library and a past co-president of GGAC.
“Arts organizations offer us multiple pathways to art, which allows our community to not only express its diversity but also to come together in creating and enjoying art,” Dobbs says. “I believe art is one of the ways we can strengthen the social fabric of our community.”
Having two strong, ongoing projects provides a solid foundation on which GGAC can build. “(Art on the Trailway and Art for the Ages) fit our mission beautifully, by connecting the community via the arts,” says Diers, a sales and marketing professional with ProArt Gallery in Greenwood. “We believe their success is simply because both projects give the community an outlet to come together to celebrate the arts.”
Formed in 2009 via the shared vision of the mayor of Greenwood and other individuals interested in the arts, the GGAC worked to act as a community connector with its events. Grant workshops for local artists, high school art showcases and sponsoring Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra artists-in-residence are among other programming GGAC offered over the years.
“I am proud of the city of Greenwood for recognizing the importance of all versions of art in a community,” Diers says. “Supporting the arts and local artisans gives artists an opportunity to express themselves and be embraced and celebrated in their community.”
The sentiment is echoed by Mark Landis, GGAC board president. “When you provide opportunities to see (the arts), you change the community and give people a chance to appreciate new things,” he says.
A sculpture or a poem or a song can make a special connection and give someone a “wow” moment, noted Landis “We want that for our community, to enrich it through the arts,” he says. The current priority, Landis says, is getting GGAC reorganized. Part of that effort is expanding GGAC’s reach beyond visual arts, which had been the group’s focus. “We’re going to create more opportunities for that to happen,” he says. “This coming year is about getting us in position to move forward and getting our name out there to those outside of the traditional visual arts world.”
One way to do that is through scholarships. GGAC is eyeing a three-pronged program to reward students for visual arts, written arts and the performing arts.
“As a board, we have group sessions to really drill down and determine what our mission is in the community, which is basically to connect the community through the arts,” Diers says. “Since we are a small group and 100% volunteer, we have to determine the best use of our time to work on projects that we feel best fit our mission.”
“The thing that we look for is community impact,” added Landis, executive director and co-founder of Creative Grounds Fine Arts Academy, a performing arts theater in Greenwood. “It’s not about us but impacting our community and the arts as a whole.”
The focus extends outward as well. GGAC is preparing an online video with testimonials from local artists who have benefited from the GGAC events, along with images and video from past events. “This will hopefully catch the eye of possible future board members who want to be a part of the art culture in our city, as well as possible donors to sponsor future events,” Diers says.
One of those testimonials will come from Patty Coulter, a local artist and past board member. “Arts are critical in our community, and I’d like to see even more of a presence,” says Coulter, whose art has been displayed in Hamilton County and the Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art. “I’m glad to see (GGAC) continuing on.”
Coulter, the inaugural wine label winner for the Art Uncorked event that GGAC previously held with Mallow Run Winery, says GGAC is vital to giving opportunities for artists to hone their talents.
Take the Art for the Ages show, for example. Seeing many young artists participate thrilled Coulter, who loves to talk with children about art.
“It’s so important for these kids to have art in the community,” says Coulter, who has been a watercolor painter for 25 years and dabbles in other mediums. “When somebody has talent, they need to express it.”
It is not just students who benefit. The show exposes people of all ages to
workshops and classes and gives people confidence to put their art on display. And it shows that there is a strong arts presence in Greenwood and Johnson County, which is a positive for the area.
“Artists are the most giving and sharing group of people I’ve ever met,” Coulter says.
GGAC faces some pandemic-related challenges, but those hurdles cannot erase the positives that the organization brought to Greenwood over the years.
“COVID has definitely given us some challenges on future projects, both because many board members dropped out and because of gathering in large groups,” Diers says. “Thankfully most restrictions have been lifted so we can move forward and begin growing the council again.”

GGAC wants you!
The Greater Greenwood Arts Council Board of Directors meets 4 to 5:30 p.m. the first Monday of each month at the Greenwood Public Library, 310 S. Meridian St., Greenwood. Anyone is welcome to attend.
GGAC is looking for volunteers for projects as well as board members, who agree to serve a three-year commitment. “We are looking for board members who are passionate about sharing all forms of art in the community,” says GGAC President Mark Landis, noting that you do not have to be an artist to be on the board. “When you appreciate art, you can then share that passion with your community.”
For more information, contact the GGAC at [email protected] or visit its website at