Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on MACED’s website.
Tiny seeds can turn into plants that yield much fruit. That truth is apparent in the work of the Grayson Gallery and Arts Center (GGAC) in Grayson, KY. In May 2011, the City of Grayson gave permission to Dan Click and Mindy Woods-Click to host a pop-up art show in the former Grayson fire station. The show was a huge success and now, 7 years later, The Grayson Gallery & Art Center is alive and well in that old fire station. GGAC, now a registered nonprofit, hosts numerous events and programs including a F!nal Fr!day ArtWalk, open mic music nights, Second Saturday Music Shindigs, kids art camps, poetry slams, classes for homeschoolers, special programming for autistic children and teens, and programs for those in recovery from addiction.
F!nal Fr!days, the monthly art show, features work from artists representing over 23 cities and 5 states, and gives both professional and amateur artists in central Appalachia a venue to display and sell their work. Second Saturday Shindigs is a music show for regional bands, provide low barrier opportunities for the community to gather, engage with the arts, partake in a free meal, build community, and be part of a positive movement toward the future in a place that has seen its share of hardships in recent years. Grayson has a poverty rate of 24% and is in Carter County, designated by the Appalachian Regional Commission, as an economically distressed county.
The Gallery works hard to provide opportunities to under-resourced youth and community members. An annual art camp offers a tuition-free arts experience for children and approximately 50% of participants come from under-resourced families. Dan Click, co-founder and director, said, “In the seven years we’ve been doing the camp we’ve seen many kids develop an interest in art that might not otherwise have had any interest. We’ve seen kids go on to major in art in college and now we have an art camp alumni who is teaching an art class for us!” The Gallery also started a “Pay It Forward” bike giveaway program to provide bikes for under-resourced individuals and collaborated with the Rotary Club to provide bike racks around town to encourage ridership.
The GGAC does all of this, and more, with a very small budget. They receive a small amount each year from the City of Grayson and have a 10 year agreement with the Tourism Commission for free use of the building. All other income is from donations and a few small grants. The staffing is all volunteer, except for one very part-time administrative position. Dan Click and Mindy Woods-Click, founders of the Grayson Gallery, have been recognized for their community service and as community change agents. It’s clear that the labor of love in planting seeds of change through art in Grayson is yielding a bumper crop of benefits for artists, the community, and the region.
MACED is happy to be able to partner with GGAC through a new network of communities and community groups called What’s Next EKY!?. MACED is supporting the incubation of What’s Next as a strategy to connect communities with the aims of mutual learning, regional collaboration, and economic development. Dan and Mindy serve on the steering committee for What’s Next and have brought the same enthusiasm that they brought to the GGAC.