A recent reorganization of the City of Kingsport’s Leisure Services Division has resulted in the creation of a stand-alone Office of Cultural Arts within the division, highlighting Kingsport’s continued focus on economic as well as cultural opportunities provided by the promotion of all forms of art.

In 2010, a strategic planning effort brought together the city’s five major arts organizations, and kicked off efforts to craft a cultural vision for the community, according to Office of Cultural Arts Director Bonnie Macdonald.

As a result, the strategic plan charged the Office with coordination and collaboration of cultural partners as well as maintaining an emphasis on Riverfront cultural development and nurturing public commitment to the arts. The reorganization is a key result of that strategic planning effort.

“By establishing the Office of Cultural Arts as a stand-alone department, the City hopes to maximize the return on the efforts of all our cultural partners,” Macdonald said. “The mission is simple: connect the public with the creative community.

“Moving forward, collaborative programs will involve a variety of arts organizations as well as non-arts organizations, with the goal of increasing opportunities and outlets for artists of all types. As Kingsport becomes a destination for artists, new markets emerge for the creations of these artists. This in turn expands both the creative class and economic opportunities within our community.”

Macdonald, who has worked in Cultural Arts with the City for seven years, and has been involved in community arts programming for more than two decades. While with Kingsport, she has helped guide a number of City and volunteer public art efforts, including the Sculpture Walk Exhibits and the Carousel Project.

Beth Estep and William Stephanos round out the creative team for the Office of Cultural Arts, each with education and experience in the arts and skills to provide narrative for Kingsport’s creative community.

“The Office of Cultural Arts is guided in its efforts by a Public Art Committee, appointed by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen,” Macdonald said. “This committee was established in 2006 and has seen its successful Sculpture Walk Exhibits become a model for other communities. Through this exhibit, more than $100,000 in private donations has been given to purchase a growing permanent collection of art distributed throughout the community.”

The City of Kingsport further supports art programing through the ‘Percent for Art’ program, which authorizes a sum equivalent to .75 percent of major City capital projects for Public Art efforts.

“Through the Percent for Art program, local, regional and even national artists are asked to create a ‘sense of place’ within Kingsport, illustrating the important stories of our community through art,” Macdonald said.

The City of Kingsport Office of Cultural Arts also works in tandem with Engage Kingsport, a private, non-profit organization that provides support and guidance for cultural projects. Engage Kingsport has already made an impact through its backing of the Carousel Project, generating donations and other support for the project.

“The Carousel Project is a perfect example of what we hope to achieve through the Office, connecting volunteers, who have given literally thousands of hours of time to the project, with the founding carving artists who helped start the project,” Macdonald said. “And what is even more remarkable about the Carousel Project is that the founding carvers themselves were not artists at all when the project began. Instead, they undertook training and became skilled carving artisans as a result of their initial desire to secure a Carousel as a gift to the community.”

Each completed animal requires more than 600 hours of carving. Volunteer animal painters and rounding board painters go through special training in order to achieve dazzling effects that will highlight the animals and the Carousel frame itself.

“Even the frame of the carousel has borrowed the skills of electricians and mechanics and there is still room for more to be involved,” Macdonald said. “Estimates indicate that by the time of its completion, more than 200 people will have laid hands on the project to bring it to life.  Sponsorships from area businesses and corporations will make it possible to build a facility to house and operate the Carousel, which is completely hand-crafted, and will be a joyful legacy for the community for decades to come.”

To date, Engage Kingsport has raised more than $170,000 for the Carousel effort and will continue to seek sponsors of every level, with a total goal of $500,000 for the project.

“These efforts do not happen without volunteers and community support,” Macdonald said. “The Office of Cultural Arts certainly would like to extend a huge ‘Thank You’ to the Public Art Committee members, the directors of Engage Kingsport and the hundreds of volunteers who have already made a huge positive impact on Kingsport.”

Members of the Public Art Committee include: Roy Harmon, Bruce Shine, Brad Hoover, Beverly Perdue, Judy Smith, Chris Campbell, Jeff Stoner, Greg Willis, Janelle Swafford.

Members of the board of directors of Engage Kingsport include:  Reggie Martin, Cindy Saadeh, Gerald Sheppard, Bill Haile, Sharon Hurd, Lucy Fleming, Kathy Richards, and Mark Ray.