Bay Arts Council hosts Arts Connection Meeting
Area Arts, Cultural and Historical leaders meet then tour Masonic Temple
July 10, 2005
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By: Stephen Kent
The Bay Arts Council hosted its second "Arts Connection" meeting on June 30 at the Masonic Temple which it recently purchased. After a lively meeting and discussion, the visitors were taken on a top to bottom tour of the historic building.
Founded in 1978 as an "umbrella agency" with the purpose of "balancing available media, such as motion pictures, television, radio and recordings, with real life experiences in the arts", the Bay Arts Council has become know today primarily for its popular "Summer Concert Series". Today the Council is reassessing it's position and mission and thinking about its roots.
In 2003 the Arts Council found backing and developed a "Community Cultural Arts Plan". A nationally know consultant was brought in, meetings were held with all of the other arts organizations, businesses, government, and the public. The resulting plan lead to the developmentof a five year strategic plan for the Council.
In June 2004, the Arts Council board voted to "accept responsibility for the Bay Area Cultural Arts Plan and move forward with a new expanded rold in the arts and culture community.
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The meeting on the 30th gave the Council the opportunity to present some of the working ideas and get feedback from other organizations such as the Bijou Orchestra, the Bay County Historial Society, the Bay Music Foundation, the City, and others. Ideas included providing professional staff for grant writing, fund raising and event planning. If designated as a central community organization, the Arts Council might also qualify for Start and Federal funds which could be re-granted to local groups.
The plan was actively discussed by those present. As with so many such ideas, there is some distrust of one group controlling others. At the same time, most present saw the potential provided the individual organizations have a voice and some degree of control.
One of the most impressive actions of the Bay Arts Council was the recent purchase, and hence saving of the Bay City Masonic Temple. This beautiful and historic gem, build in the late 1800's was on the verge of being demolished. "The groups in the building when we came through", said Arts Council Executive Director Tom Niemann, "were the auctioneers and the demolition companies. Had we not been able to pull off the purchase, the Temple would be gone".
Saving the Temple was a bold move on the part of the Arts Council, and a great service to the Bay Area. With two auditoriums complete with stages, lighting, and backdrops, a large dining room and commercial kitchen, various meeting rooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms and offices, the Temple can be a tremendous resource to the arts and culture community.
The building certainly has some problems, as any structure of this age does, but it is structurally sound and well kept inside. Funding was obtained to upgrade exit signs and othercode considerations to open the building to the public. Already groups are looking at uses. The Bay City JayCees are considering using the basement for a "Haunted House" project at Halloween.
For more information on the Bay Arts Council, visit their web site at www.BayArtsCouncil.org
View from Back Stage in Blue Room
View of main floor of Blue Room with pipe organ in background
A step back in time in the upstairs poolroom.
Balls are still on table.
Full commercial kitchen on basement level
Tom Niemann shows guests some of the artifacts in a backstage locker room.
Walls and trim are beautifully painted in the Blue room.
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Arts/Theater Article 831
Steve Kent and his family have lived in Bay City for 30 years. He is VP of Technical Services at MMCC which produces MyBayCity.Com. Kent is active in many Bay City civic organizations.
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