Council fosters cultural, artistic atmosphere

As part of one of the workshops for the Junior Arts League of Waxhaw, the teens used various art supplies to complete their project. According to the league’s co-chair, Bonnie Wood, these workshops would not be possible without the Grassroots Arts Program Grants. Photo courtesy of Bonnie Wood

As part of one of the workshops for the Junior Arts League of Waxhaw, the teens used various art supplies to complete their project. According to the league’s co-chair, Bonnie Wood, these workshops would not be possible without the Grassroots Arts Program Grants. Photo courtesy of Bonnie Wood

The Union County Community Arts Council is currently accepting applications for its Grassroots Arts Program Grants to help organizations and individuals working to promote and develop diverse cultural arts programing in the area.

The council’s grants have funded proposed projects for such organizations since the council’s inception in 1980. Applicants must live in Union County and provide a service that benefits a large percentage of the community in order to apply for a grant, a news release said.

“The grants allow us to provide top-notch cultural arts programs throughout the county,” Barbara Faulk, the executive director of the Union County Community Arts Council, said.

The not-for-profit organization requires strict criteria for project submissions. The applicant must have organizational strength, financial stability, artistic merit and should serve the community.

“We restrict our funding to support only arts programs,” Faulk said. “We have to have a strict criteria based on a panel of community and board members that must be approved by the board of directors.”

The council hopes to help about eight organizations and more than a dozen community projects through the grants. The amount of available grant funds will be determined by allocations from the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, revenues of the Union County Community Arts Council, projected expenses and by past funding history of the applicant. Due to decreased Cultural Resources funding, allocations will remain in accordance with the level of state support.

The Union County Community Arts Council typically receives around $44,000 a year from state funding and gives about 50 percent of the funding to arts organizations through the grassroots grants.

Faulk said the council works to match the state funding through fundraising, including private donations, foundation donations and fundraising events.

“We can take a little bit of money, match it, and make it more,” Faulk said.

The project proposals will be reviewed by a panel of community members and members of the art council’s board of directors. Then, the proposal will go to the board of directors for approval.

“On the panel, we will make sure to see the organizations are non-profit and that they will promote diverse cultural and artistic programs for the county,” said Larry Hook, president-elect of the Union County Community Arts Council’s board of directors.

Hook said the board of directors and panel will look at what projects the grants have helped in the past, the funds requested and the future development of the programs when choosing the grand recipients.

The board of directors sees their relationship with the organizations as a partnership, according to Hook.

“As president-elect, as I think I’d be speaking for the board members, we want to work in partnership with organizations,” he said. “There is a commitment from myself and the other board members to work with the art groups in our community and participate together.”

The board members also support the art programs through newsletters and promotions.

“We give financial support to grassroots programs and encourage arts in Union County,” Hook said.

The grassroots grants have helped various programs in the past with projects and some organizations’ initial establishment, including Union Symphony, Very Special Arts Festival, Union County Playmakers, The Storefront Theatre, the Union County Performance Arts Center and the Waxhaw Arts Council, among others.

Faulk said the funds have provided imperative art supplies to the Junior Arts League of Waxhaw, a group of high school students who participate in workshops taught by artists of the Waxhaw Arts Council.

“The funds are a huge help because the students may not be able to attend the class otherwise because we would have to charge a normal workshop fee (around $30),” said Bonne Wood, co-chair of the Junior Arts Council.

Wood said the league teaches leadership, community involvement and art skills they wouldn’t get in schools. They wouldn’t be able to reach as many students without the council’s funding, she added.

Judy Simpson Cook, executive director of The Storefront Theatre in Waxhaw, said the funding has been significantly influential in the running of the theater.

“The funding helps us in general in that it is a set of money we can depend on to afford the costs of the theater,” Cook said. The grant has helped with supplementary promotions, an upgrade to the organization’s website and the growth of the theater’s turnout throughout its eight seasons, Cook added.

“The Union County Community Arts Council has been instrumental in bringing about the resurgence of community theater in Union County. Their Grassroots Arts Program has provided the seed money needed to establish the Union County Playmakers,” Erica Owens, president of the Union County Playmakers, said in an email. Owens also said the community theater group plans to apply again this year for the funds to cover costs of upcoming shows.

Faulk said the council plans to continue to carry out their organization’s mission: “to lead, cultivate and promote the arts as an essential component of community life and education.”

“I want the community to know the council is very present in this community,” Faulk said. “Our programs are designed for the public and we always invite new comments and suggestions.”

The application deadline for the grants is Aug. 21, a Thursday, at noon. Find more information about submissions at

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Courtney Schultz

About Courtney Schultz

Courtney Schultz is a recent college graduate from Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C. She has both a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Political Science. At Campbell, she was the editor-in-chief of the university’s student newspaper for nearly three years and worked for the Siskey YMCA in their membership services and marketing department. She mostly covers education news for the Matthews, Mint-Hill, and greater Charlotte areas.

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