By TIFFANY RONEY
The slow strumming of guitar strings provided the background to a cocktail buffet, an exhibit of more than 20 original drawings and paintings and the chatting of area art-lovers. The Annual Meeting & Cocktail Reception of the Dickinson County Arts Council was held at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum on Friday evening.
Karen Cooper, art teacher of Salina Christian Academy and the council’s Chaffee-Bradshaw Youth Art Class, said students of the class created the display pieces during the summer.
“We call these our masterpieces and the kids really enjoyed it,” Cooper said in her remarks. “I love having these kids. It’s one of the best things I get to do all year. I always look forward to it quite a bit because I love getting to know kids in the community and watching them grow.”
Cooper said many local children and teens who attend the classes one summer get hooked and continue participating year after year.
“It’s kind of fun when I get a new kid in class – I get to think, ‘Oh! I’m going to have this kid for the next few years!’ and I usually do,” Cooper said.
In past years the classes were held at churches or schools, but this year, for the first time, Cooper taught the class at the building of Cooper Clean, a business that belongs to her husband, Kelly.
“I had a little more leeway as far as the mess we could make because the boss can always clean that up,” Cooper said. “It’s a real well-lit area. It’s nice and big and open. And we sprayed watercolor paint out in the parking lot all over some papers and all over our hands and our feet, so it was a lot of fun.”
Beyond the Chaffee-Bradshaw Youth Art Class, Denise Blehm, director of the council, said the council’s annual programming for youth includes picture person, cartoon and comic book classes, photography and a variety of holiday art classes. For adults, the council offers classes in acrylic painting, drawing, printmaking and photography.
Blehm introduced eight members of the council’s board of directors to the reception attendees. Two of the members, Hollie Tompkins and Sally Nelson, were new to the board.
“I’m still very thankful to be able to work with a board that not only has a passion for the arts but a heart the community,” Blehm said from the podium. “However, it doesn’t really matter how many great ideas we come up with at our board meetings or how many fabulous classes we have. Without the continued support of each and every one of you, our programming would not be possible.”
Blehm said she wanted to challenge every attendee to not only support the council monetarily but also through volunteerism and constructive criticism.
“It can be as simple as offering to bake a couple dozen cookies for a reception or volunteering to be a greeter or take tickets at a concert or event,” Blehm said. “You can put your creative talents to good use to help decorate for an event or just simply talk to us and tell us what you’d like for us to do, what we’ve done in the past that you have enjoyed or maybe we could have done better.
“In closing, please remember, while the arts council is here to serve you, we need to unite to realize our common goal of making Abilene and Dickinson County a better community and place to live.”
Erik Graefe, local musician, provided the strumming and council members prepared the cocktail spread.