BATESVILLE — The Batesville Area Arts Council has moved — but only next door.
The arts council, sporting a new logo, can now be found at 226 E. Main St. The organization’s new space houses the BAAC Gallery on Main, a large room where workshops can be held, several storage areas and office space for its new executive director, Paige Dirksen.
The public is invited to a grand opening celebration from 5-7 p.m. Friday. This event will also be a reception for the gallery’s current exhibit, the 2014 National Juried Exhibition, which will remain on display through May 30.
Dirksen, who is originally from Bellevue, Iowa, came on board as full-time executive director in July 2013. She and her husband, Scott, moved to Batesville about 2 1/2 years ago when he accepted a job at Lyon College, where he is director of outdoor recreation and education.
Dirksen has a Bachelor of Arts degree in studio art from the University of Northern Iowa, where she majored in printmaking, with a minor in psychology. She earned her Master of Arts degree in art therapy and counseling at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.
“I just have a passion for community arts,” she said. “I was an adjunct teacher at Lyon and taught individual art classes when we first moved here. I then became involved in the arts council and served on its board of directors before I became the interim director last January.
“I really enjoy my job,” she said.
Dirksen said the new space housed the former Heuer’s Family Shoes.
“Fifteen years ago, Barbara Fitzpatrick donated the space next door to her family’s shoe store to the Batesville Area Arts Council Gallery,” Dirksen said. “When the shoe store came up for sale, the board purchased it for $85,000. We received state funding through the help of [state] Sen. David Wyatt (D-Batesville) and [state] Rep. James McLean (D-Batesville), and in January of this year, we began to remodel.”
Linda Creighton, president of the 12-member BAAC Board of Directors, said the money came from the state’s General Improvement Fund.
“When there is an excess in the state’s budget, senators and representatives are allowed to request money for investments in their districts,” she said. “I have been in the banking industry for several years, and I knew there might be money available for us. I contacted both Sen. Wyatt and Rep. McLean, and we applied for the money. We would not have been able to do this without their support.”
Creighton said the arts council was first established on Main Street, and the organization’s officials wanted it to remain on Main Street.
“Batesville is working hard to re-create Main Street,” Creighton said. “So when this building became available, we knew we wanted to purchase it. It has given us more space so that we can continue to grow. And we can continue to be a part of downtown Batesville.”
Creighton said Dirksen is an asset to the arts council and the community.
“She has worked so hard and created new opportunities for adults, as well as children. I look for great things to be added to our programs. The community continues to be so generous and supportive of us,” Creighton said.
“We’ve come a long way,” Dirksen said. “We are especially grateful to the community that has supported us. Volunteers, including students from organizations at Lyon College, have done most of the work.
“The move has allowed us to double our space. We are going to rent the old space to photographers who operate Divine Studios. That just fits into our mission to support the arts and artists in our community.”
Dirksen said the renovation project cost approximately $30,000. The Bill Campbell Construction Co. of Batesville was the contractor for the project, and Schmidt Electric of Batesville did the electrical work. Lyon College student Ashley Mott designed the new logo for the arts council, and local artist Ross Jones made the chandelier that hangs in the gallery.
Dirksen said the BAAC will continue to offer the same programs, including gallery exhibitions and receptions, monthly workshops, kids’ summer camps and Friday Painters, which is for cancer survivors, caregivers and friends.
The not-for-profit organization has sponsored the Arts in Education program since 1991 and will continue that program, which allows the BAAC to bring nationally recognized artists to the Batesville and Southside school districts.
In addition to exhibits at the Gallery on Main, the Batesville Area Arts Council also exhibits art from local area artists at the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce, Citizens Bank, White River Medical Center and the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville.
Upcoming exhibits at BAAC include the Arkansas Arts Council’s 2014 Small Works on Paper exhibition, which will open June 3 and continue through June 27, with an opening reception set for June 6.
A solo exhibit by Dusty Mitchell of Mountain View will open July 1 and continue through Aug. 8. Mitchell, who teaches art at Mountain View Elementary School, won first place in the 2013 National Juried Exhibition sponsored by the Batesville Area Arts Council.
For more information on the Batesville Area Arts Council, call (870) 793-3382 or visit www.batesvilleareaartscouncil.org.