Artists are sometimes optimistic people, possibly because they view the world not only with their eyes, but with their heart and soul.
"There is so much beauty all around us that so many people never see because they don't stop long enough to really see it, really enjoy it," said Oceanville resident Bill Horner, a self-taught artist and crafter.
Horner is also the president of the Galloway Cultural Arts Center, a nonprofit volunteer organization dedicated to enriching the community through arts education, cultural events and providing area artists with exhibit and networking opportunities.
Founded in 1996 through a cooperative effort of township council members, area artists and residents, the group is working hard to keep its main focus, which is art for the community, by the community, Horner said.
Supported by modest membership dues and private and local business donations, the Galloway Cultural Arts Center provides affordable and accessible adult and children's arts education for the residents of Galloway and surrounding areas. Membership is open to all members of the community and surrounding area.
The members of the Galloway Cultural Arts Center believe that access to art education and activities is valuable to a successful community. And they hope that township officials agree.
Without explanation, Horner said, the group was squeezed out of its home base in the Municipal Complex. The group found temporary homes at Glenn by the Bay Park on Route 9 near the township's Veterans Park, and at the senior center, neither resulting in a permanent stay.
"Right now, we rotate holding our monthly meetings in the library and at members' homes, and we hold art classes where we can, but we really need a home base," Horner said.
The group also currently exhibits its members' works at the Atlantic County Library, Galloway Branch, on Jimmie Leeds Road. The current exhibit, "All About Light," runs to Sept. 21 and can be viewed during regular library hours, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The next exhibit will be titled "South Jersey Life," and will start after the current exhibit ends and run through the middle of January.
Besides the library, Horner said the group also has partnered with local restaurants and businesses to exhibit members' works.
Alice White-Marks, of Mullica Township, has been a member since 2005 and conducts watercolor classes.
"We need a home to teach and hold classes," she said. "The library is getting us wonderful exposure, but we simply wish we had a location to hold classes and get more people involved."
Marion McCaffrey, who is one of the original members and has been involved with the Cultural Arts Center for 17 years, said what they really need is a facility big enough to accommodate their needs.
"We need a closet for supplies, we need space for tables and art easels, we need sinks and toilets. We feel abandoned," said McCaffrey, who serves as secretary for the group.
Pat Powell, a Port Republic resident, serves as treasurer for the Cultural Arts Center and teaches children's summer art classes, which were held in the basement at the Highland Community Church on Fourth Avenue.
"We were very grateful to have the space there," said Powell, who added that the children's classes are popular in the community.
"Exposing new generations to art is part of the creative process," Powell said. "It's such a value to the community."
Pleasantville resident Rosalyn Jennings has been a member since 2007. The arts group has provided more than an outlet for her creativity, it has opened up a social network, she said.
Donna Litts is a township resident who joined the Cultural Arts Center about eight years ago. She said the experience of belonging to the art group has made a positive impact in her life.
"When you pick up a paintbrush, it's a natural stress relief," she said. "There's no other feeling like it in the world."
To promote its membership drive, the Galloway Cultural Arts Center will hold a free drawing and painting workshop Oct. 10 conducted by Bonnie Cavalier.
The site is to be determined, but Horner is hoping the class will make more people aware of what the group has to offer.
"I'm hopeful we'll get a spot somewhere in the township. Funding is the key," he said.
To get more information about the Galloway Cultural Arts Center and learn more of what it offers the community, visit GallowayCulturalArts.org.
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