Q&A with Lora Arledge

January 9, 2013 

City of Residence: Perry

Occupation: Chairwoman of the Perry Arts Center Advisory Board

QUESTION: When did the Perry Arts Center open?

ANSWER: In November of 2003. The Uptown Perry Partnership, the fund-raising arm of the downtown development authority, asked Perry City Council to let them open a regional arts center in the old National Guard armory on Macon Road.

QUESTION: The city owned the building?

ANSWER: Yes. I think the National Guard sold it to the city for a dollar.

QUESTION: How did the idea for an arts center come about?

ANSWER: Former Perry Downtown Development Authority director Tish Chase had a fire in her belly--that’s how I’d put it--for an arts center here. She wanted to utilize the armory for that. Under her guidance we were able to make steps toward creating it.

QUESTION: What’s the center’s purpose?

ANSWER: It’s to promote the arts and provide a place for people to learn, express and experience all areas of the arts, all disciplines. It’s for the people of Perry but serves all of Middle Georgia.

QUESTION: How is it funded?

ANSWER: The city owns and operates the center, but private teachers and rental of the facilities for private events have kept us in the black for a good while now.

QUESTION: What’s likely to be going on there on an average day?

ANSWER: We rent studio space to two visual arts teachers, Beverly Ussery and Susan Verrochi, who teach young people and adult students. They teach drawing, water color, oil painting, working with clay, that sort of thing. We also rent studio space to Show Kids. That’s a performing arts group featuring music, dance and drama. There’s a lot going on with them plus the other events we have.

QUESTION: What sort of community rentals are popular at the center?

ANSWER: People rent space for everything from baby showers to birthday parties, class reunions, family reunions, weddings, receptions and all kinds of things.

QUESTION: It’s a pretty big place.

ANSWER: The main hall is almost 5,500 square feet, and there’s a smaller community room that’s roughly 18 feet by 20 feet. We have a caterer’s kitchen with refrigeration, but no cooking can be done on site. All the classrooms we have are occupied with art classes. We recently added a sound system that’s available, too.

QUESTION: Aside from the center’s frequent activities you mentioned, what other activities happen there?

ANSWER: We’ve had art camps, area students have come for art education, we’ve had a multi generational folk arts camp for young people and adults, it was where Perry’s painted manhole covers were done and just a whole lot of other things.

QUESTION: What’s been the biggest event?

ANSWER: By far the Smithsonian’s New Harmonies exhibit. It was a celebration of roots music that was here for six weeks in September and October. It included a national exhibit as well as local displays such as from the (Allman Brother’s) Big House in Macon and the Mossy Creek festival. Close to 4,500 people came to the exhibit, and it definitely showed the regional nature of the center. Actually, we had people from other countries stop in, too.

QUESTION: What are some coming events?

ANSWER: On Feb. 16 we’re having the Art of Chocolate, our annual fundraiser along with the Houston Arts Alliance. Local restaurants provide chocolate tasting, and the Georgia Big Band will play for dancing. There’s also a silent auction. For $25 people can come and have all the chocolate they can eat, a glass of wine, dancing and enjoy the silent auction.

QUESTION: How do they get tickets?

ANSWER: Call (478) 287-5262 for Art of Chocolate information and tickets.

QUESTION: What else is on the schedule?

ANSWER: We’re going to have our first Arts in the Armory art show and sale April 12-15. It will be a judged show with great prizes. We’re currently calling artists for entry, and the deadline is March 15. It’s open to all Georgia artists over 18. There is an entry fee and about $2,100 in prize money.

March 1-18 is the Crossroads Quilt Guild show with more than 200 quilt demonstrations, a raffle and vendors selling quilting supplies. It’s a good shopping opportunity for quilters.

QUESTION: What benefit do you see in having such a center?

ANSWER: The center reflects well on the quality of life in Perry, and obviously it has drawn a lot of people here and to Middle Georgia. It has the potential of drawing a lot more. That’s the positive economic side, but there are intangibles as well. Art helps make us human. It has an intrinsic value that adds to the health of a community that’s hard to put into words. It’s inspirational and feeds the soul. Music and art feed the soul. Art helps children express feelings they would have a hard time finding words for.

QUESTION: How do folks contact the center?

ANSWER: Contact us at 988-2700 or e-mail us at info@perryartscenter.org.

Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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