The Community Arts Project, a Lake Norman nonprofit group, ended its last open art session on Friday after 15 years of operation, the victim of diminishing contributions and revenues, officials said.
The nonprofit’s aim was to bring “art within reach” to the community, says its website. Year-round arts programming for people of all ages brought local artists to teach and create.
“Throughout the 15 years, I think our greatest impact was really bringing art at a reach to all, from little ones to seniors,” said Marti O’Flynn, a board member. “And I think that the unique process of teaching has really been our largest claim to fame.”
The Community Arts Project started in Huntersville as the Children’s Art Project, created in 1997 by local parents who wanted to create art with their children. By 1999, the group had a studio and registered as a nonprofit.
The main studio in Cornelius was at the Cornelius Arts Center, where space was shared with the Creative Art Exchange, another nonprofit created in 2003 that held art classes and events.
The two organizations merged in 2009 to become the Community Arts Project. Both had been receiving an operating support grant from the Arts and Science Council in Charlotte, which became one grant after the merger.
After spending many years at the Cornelius Arts Center, the Community Arts Project had to move when the town decided to use multiple vendors for classes to allow more businesses and individuals to offer services. The organization moved to the former chair factory on North Main Street in August 2013, with only the ceramics studio staying at the Arts Center on Oak Street.
The move and remodeling of the new space were hard on CAP’s budget, and registration for fall classes was lower than usual. The board of directors launched a campaign to raise $46,000 by the end of the fiscal year in June, but the fundraising fell short, with only $17,000 raised, said Cathy Templeton, executive director. The board announced the closing of the Community Arts Project in July, and the last open art session Friday was a chance to say goodbye.
“We invited people to bring old pictures with them,” Templeton said.
The Community Arts Project offered eight-week classes during the fall, winter and spring, as well as summer camps. HubCAPS, the mobile art program, brought free arts activities with unconventional materials into the community and to organizations such as the YMCA and local schools, O’Flynn said.
The classes offered a specific teaching style that encouraged the creativity of the participants, especially young children, Templeton said.
“The way we teach is process-based, which means that the process of creating the art is as important as the product,” Templeton said. “We focus a lot on parent education, so we’re teaching them how to assist the child but still let the child drive the process.
“They’re always surprised by it and happy with it because the kids really know how to lead themselves through art, they just don’t get the chance to,” she said.
The Community Arts Project also employed local artists and teachers to lead the classes and camps, some of whom sold their art at the front of the studio.
“That’s one of the key points in our mission – supporting local artists,” Templeton said. “Many of them have worked for us for many years. They’re very loyal to CAP.”