BG council endorses proposed arts center

BOWLING GREEN – The Bowling Green Town Council has endorsed plans by the town’s arts commission to establish a center to display art work by Sidney King, a plan that hinges on approval from the Caroline County Board of Supervisors.

King, a renowned artist from Caroline County, now deceased, was commissioned by the National Park Service to paint about 180 large historical pictures for park sites in the eastern U.S.

The National Park Service is willing to make 13 of them available on loan, commission chairman Patrick DeCrane told the Town Council at its regular meeting on Thursday of last week. The paintings depict Civil War battles in the greater Fredericksburg region.

DeCrane was informed of the development by Caroline County tourism manager Kathy Beard, who solicited the support of the town’s arts commission and also attended the Town Council session.

Under a proposal that DeCrane indicated would be considered by the Board of Supervisors at its regular meeting Jan. 22, the arts center would share space with the Caroline Historical Society, which occupies offices in the old annex building on courthouse square.

The supervisors must approve the plan since county owns the building. In addition, the county would be asked to pay the cost of utilities and maintaining a security system that already is installed.

The town’s arts commission would be responsible for setting up the arts center, coordinating the King exhibit, recruiting volunteers, and the other day-to-day aspects of keeping it open, indicated DeCrane.

The historical society, which is not using all the space, was briefed on the proposed arts center by Beard and supports the request, said DeCrane.

The center, which would be named the Sidney E. King Arts Center, would provide an “economic boost” for Bowling Green, said DeCrane. It would draw people interested in art as well as the Civil War – visitors who potentially would patronize restaurants and other businesses in the county seat.

The commission envisions establishing a foundation to benefit the arts center, seeking grant funds for it, and using it as a venue for other artists and art education, said DeCrane.

“We feel this is a great opportunity,” said DeCrane.

It would be the first time for all 13 paintings to be displayed in the same setting, said DeCrane. It may be possible for the arts center to obtain other King works, suggested DeCrane, who noted that Bowling Green’s Union Bank branch also has some King art work in storage.

Although the Town Council did not take a formal vote, Mayor David Storke later told DeCrane, “You have our support.”

That support was tempered by comments from two councilors who indirectly referred to a bit of intrigue by the Board of Supervisors in late 2011. At the time, the county leased the same space in the annex to the Caroline County Museum and Cultural Center, which shared some of the space with the historical society. The museum was operated under a cooperative agreement between the county and town.

After a closed session at the end of the board’s regular meeting in August 2011, however, the supervisors voted to revoke the lease. The museum, opened less than a year earlier, was evicted effective December 2011. It subsequently moved to another location nearby.

In early 2012 the supervisors considered a proposal for a different, county-operated museum in the same space that would be devoted to Richard and Mildred Loving, the Caroline County couple whose landmark U.S. Supreme Court case led to laws against interracial marriage being struck down. The supervisors approved the concept of the museum, but it has lain fallow without funding.

Councilor Jason Satterwhite apparently had the eviction of the museum in mind when he said, “We went down this path a year ago.” He asked what kind of assurances town officials would have that, if the proposed arts center moves forward, county officials would not undermine it in the future “because of a political issue.”

There are no “power plays” involved, responded DeCrane.

“I think it’s a great idea,” added Councilor Glenn McDearmon, “if we don’t get caught up in a web of controversy.”

Posted on Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 3:21 pm