Artists are dreamers. And, many times so are the people who facilitate their vision.. As the Conyers Rockdale Council of the Arts (CRCA) celebrates its silver anniversary, there’s been a thread of dreams initiated by founder Paula Vaughn still being imagined and realized through Director Jackie Sprague.
“We owe the late Paula Vaughn a great deal of gratitude. She dreamt of a viable arts community in her county, and I’m proud her dream became a reality,” said former Board Chair Julie Rogers, “Her tenacious hard work established the Black Box, bringing us theatre in a new venue and a variety of programming to our community.”
Another former board president and friend of Vaughn, Judy Mauran, said Vaughn was just the person to tackle the project and negotiate various, and sometimes opposing, interests. “She was a very calming influence on rest of us who were a little more volatile – she was adept at handling people without them ever suspecting they were being handled.”
Among her legacy’s varied programming are the New Depot Player’s five yearly productions: Preschool Pops, ArtSmart and drama camps, a Jazz series, comedy shows and summer Pavilion concert events.
Next up is a monthly drum circle Sprague conjured during multiple trips to Asheville, N. C. “They generate community energy and bring people together in one spot.” People may bring bongos, djembe or African drums, rain stickers, shakers – basically anything that makes noise. A lead begins the beat, and then the rest of the circle joins in.” It will be a “First Friday” event every month at 7 p.m. at the Botanical Garden on Commercial Street, beginning April 4. “The idea is to bring people in the community and feel this positive energy and patronize our restaurants and shops.”
Sprague believes after its inception, CRCA’s biggest accomplishment may be that they still exist. “The last eight years have been a financial struggle, but we’re still here and bringing quality programming to the community.” In 2012, after funding from the county was entirely cut, she credits individual donations, corporate sponsors, grants and a savvy board for keeping the dream alive.
“It’s a team effort of keeping our expenses low and picking programming well.” She cites recent sold-out jazz performances by Derwin Daniels and Claudia Hayden and tremendous volunteer support in the box office, concessions and ushers. Another revenue avenue is renting the Center Street Arts space, a.k.a. Black Box, for ballet and private school events, not to mention a little Hollywood support from “The Originals” production, who rent it as a holding space for extras.
Sprague is enthused CRCA can be the center of an arts hub in Olde Town and beyond. Pointing to Conyers Ballet, The Sketching Pad, Nature Seen, photography studios and the art alleys at Sadie’s and Treasures and Trash, to name a few, as evidence of a growing arts scene. Talks are also underway with the Monastery of the Holy Spirit to partner on their fall festival with the family and children’s stage. On June 7, CRCA will bring back the enormously popular A1A, a Jimmy Buffet tribute band, at the Pavilion. An early fall concert and reception is also being planned in Vaughn’s honor.
When asked to dream a possibly impossible dream for the next 25 years, Sprague says a larger performing arts center would be incredible.
For more information on CRCA programs or to make a donation or volunteer, visit www.conyersarts.org or call 770-922-3143.