A small passing in Augusta’s nonprofit art world is in process. The Art Factory has closed.
For those of us who sat around a table 18 years ago and looked at the need and potential for art to change the lives of children in this community, it is a large loss.
THERE IS MUCH to note about the Art Factory’s impact in Augusta. The Art Factory took the initiative in providing arts experiences to the most underserved populations, and served as a catalyst in creating other art-focused programs.
The Art Factory will be sorely missed – not just by the six women around that table 18 years ago, but by the children who passed through its doors.
Programs were provided for children, families and individuals from all walks of life. From theater camps to after-school programs, to the Hope House, to the Shelter for Abused Children, to Gracewood School, to name a few, the Art Factory never turned down a request for art.
It meant hiring teachers – in some cases educating artists to become teachers – and finding funds to send them out to educate. But it also meant providing time and space for children to express thoughts and feelings positively – something that for many was not encouraged in their daily lives. The programs benefited children, filled voids in our education system and grew a work force.
There were the murals painted on walls at Augusta Urban Ministries, University Hospital, Augusta Golf and Gardens and most recently the Augusta Water Works, to mention a few. While painting, young minds learned about the history of murals. They learned transferring images to walls and techniques of mixing and applying paint to create art.
CHILDREN BECAME part of a cooperative experience unlike anything they had imagined. Those experiences inspired awe. It gave children direction, inspiring a college education in the arts – all the while teaching life lessons about a work ethic, cooperation and dealing with authority.
There were classes at the Boys and Girls Club that gave young people the chance to create art and be part of a show at Augusta Tech, where the public came to appreciate and applaud their effort. Dressing up, meeting people, shaking hands and talking about their paintings seemed to make children grow taller in a single evening. The club remained a faithful customer of the Art Factory.
Art is a small thing to many, not as valued as math or science, not easily tested and proven with scores and charts. But when combined with math, science, history or language arts, the fine arts spark young minds to learn faster, often better and certainly more enjoyably. It invites visual learners to see, and kinesthetic learners to move. It teaches teamwork and encourages creative thinking. This is what the Art Factory sought to do in all its endeavors.
The founders of the Art Factory and its contributors believed in the power of art to change not only lives but the community as a whole. As we say farewell, we believe Augusta is a better place because of the valuable, dedicated work that was performed for nearly two decades. Everything has a time and a place and a passing. The Art Factory had its time and, in the process, other organizations came to value the importance of art for all – children, adults, wealthy or not.
WE TAKE OUR hats off to you, supporters, contributors, customers, teachers, board members, directors and founders. We dreamt big – much bigger than the various buildings the Art Factory called home, from Hale Street, to Crawford Avenue, to Wrightsboro Road, to the Kroc Center.
But the number of people we touched, the children whose lives were changed for the better, far exceeded our imaginations. Thank you for making our dream a reality for the past 18 years. It has been an honor to serve you.
(The writers are, respectively, the founding director and the founding board president of the Art Factory.)