EATON — The Preble County Art Association celebrated its 35th anniversary at its Preble Arts facility in downtown Eaton, on Thursday, Sept. 15.
“Back in 1965, there was a group of artists who got together to be creative and promote the art in in the area. And then through the years it got to be bigger and started growing more. And eventually they had a location, an art center at the old Sinclair building, and in 1987, the old Sinclair building was caught on fire, and that’s when they lost everything, and they decided they needed to do something to acquire a new facility,” Executive Director Claudia Edwards shared. “So in 1987, the Preble County Art Association became incorporated as a nonprofit and in order to begin fundraising for a new for a new building.”
She continued, “That’s why we celebrate the 35 years today. Then, in 1990, after their three years of fundraising, Preble County Art Association was able to build a new facility that was located at 601 Hillcrest Drive.”
The Art Center was located there, until 2019, when it outgrew the Hillcrest Drive facility, which was 5,000 square feet.
“We knew that we needed something bigger. So, part of the plan was to move downtown to be part of the repolarization of the downtown area, and to make the arts more accessible to that community. Through a lot of hard work and fundraising, we were able to open our doors in 2019 at this location on Main Street, and now we have almost 15,000 square feet,” Edwards said.
Among Preble Arts’ offerings is a state-of-the-art ceramics studio, and a gallery where shows are hosted. “We host about six shows per year,” Edwards said. “And we bring artists, local, regional and also out of state, and that’s the goal. The goal is to bring those artists from out of state to put Preble County on the map for other people.”
Preble Arts also includes a music studio, youth and adult art studios, pottery, a graphic design lab and more. And Edwards is passionate about Preble Arts and its mission.
“We’re trying to incorporate different kinds of arts to our programming. In addition, we’re working on developing metal art studio where we can teach stained glass and metal sculpting classes,” she added.
“We are releasing today our community report our annual community report, and that features all of the information on the two fundraisers that we’ve had in 2021 and 2022,” Edwards said at the event. “And through those big events, we are able to maintain our facilities and add new programming like the Graphic Design Lab and the metal art studio. We’re continuing to grow and and we’re continuing to do outreach, and we’re thankful for our partnerships.”
“We’re thankful for the support that the community and the partners and sponsors around the community provide to Preble Arts, and we are thankful for every donor, every supporter and every volunteer that can come out and be take part in the arts,” she added. “So today is just a moment to celebrate the arts, celebrate a milestone and to thank our partners and sponsors and members, because without them we wouldn’t be here today.”
The event included a hot dog buffet from Skyline Chili, free art activities, and music from the Richmond Symphony Orchestra’s Wing Walkers.
“We don’t have anything like this near us,” Edwards said of Preble Arts. “The closest is probably either Dayton or Cincinnati. Even Richmond, Indiana doesn’t have a facility like this. We have now increased our traffic from Richmond quite a bit, and we are exposing Eaton and Preble County to other areas. It is very important that people come in and just walk through the building and see what we’re doing.”
“I am extremely proud. It takes a lot of work, especially in a year where everyone is experiencing the labor market challenge and we like everyone else are experiencing a shortage of staffing. It is a lot that we do, just the two of us,” Edwards said. Preble Arts Program Coordinator Claudia Hawkins is the other “Claudia” on staff helping make Preble Arts a success.
“It’s just between the two of us that we are able to do what we’re doing and of course, the support of our board members,” Edwards said. “When we invest our time and resources to bring a special event like this, and it’s free to the public — we want the public to come out.
“This is not just for our members. This is not just for our donors. This is for everyone,” Edwards said of Preble Arts. “And we want the families to come here. We want them to bring their kids. We have something for everyone. We welcome them and we hope to see people — and we love new faces so hopefully we get a lot of that.”
According to the community report provided at the event, PCAA currently has 554 members, and served over 320 artists last year. More than 35 volunteers help make Preble Arts activities possible.
Preble Arts served over 1,400 students in educational art classes ranging from pottery to painting, according to the report, and the art center saw over 5,000 visitors. Over 825 items were sold in the center’s Paint Your Own Pottery studio.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr.