N. Augusta opens heritage center for arts, history

NORTH AUGUSTA --- The Arts and Heritage Center of North Augusta offers 7,500 square feet of open space that local artists and historians hope will enhance the area's creative scene.


The center, which celebrated its grand opening Monday, already has exhibits planned into the spring. Executive Director Lauren Virgo said she's not running short of ideas yet -- a good sign that there's a need for the center.

"I think we have the artistic foundation in our community to showcase in our own right," Ms. Virgo said. "You can never have too much art."

Area artists say it's just another space to showcase what they do.

"I like it because I'm a folk artist, and it will keep the traditions of our culture alive on both sides of the river," said Bruce Ingram, of Augusta.

While artists will have to get past a jury to earn an exhibit, Ms. Virgo has high hopes of bringing in mixed media and art ranging from a quilting show to a classic car show. She also hopes to record the oral histories of the artists and the exhibits.

Brenda Baratto, who works with the Aiken County Historical Museum and is the president of the Heritage Council of North Augusta, said the center fulfills a dream for her and others.

The Heritage Council currently meets in homes of members and relies on local events and the Aiken County museum when it wants to offer an exhibit.

"We don't really have a spot, and this gives us a venue," she said.

The center will also work with the Heritage Council to create a database of historically significant items owned by residents.

Mrs. Baratto said that although the center isn't a museum and won't store anything, the council can use the space and the database as a central location to find items that could be exhibited.

As the center takes off, President Angela Burkhalter said, the undertaking presents challenges, including raising money. The nonprofit needs about $75,000 a year to call itself successful. Although profits from the gift shop will help, the huge push this year will be in fundraising and new members, Mrs. Burkhalter said.

Ms. Virgo said exhibits will rotate about every three months. Upcoming events include being a stop during Augusta's Westobou Festival this fall and featuring North Augusta sports memorabilia during the Hall of Fame induction in the winter.

"The board had a huge vision with this, and with that comes a lot of commitment and enthusiasm," Ms. Virgo said.

Reach Julia Sellers at (706) 823-3424 or julia.sellers@augustachronicle.com.


WHERE: 100 Georgia Ave.

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, starting July 14

COST: $5 for adults, $2 for students ages 6-18; free age 6 and younger. For more information, go to artsandheritagecenter.com.