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Although each local nonprofit plays an equally important role in enriching and supporting our community, what sets each one apart is their unique missions and how they are shared. With a rich history that tells the story of creativity in our city, Aiken Center for the Arts provides our region with the best available instruction in fine arts and crafts, as well as a 22,000-square foot art gallery and shop, painting a future where more and more local artists and art lovers come together to share, learn, and grow.
“Whether you enjoyed one of our exhibitions or orchestra concerts in the past, attended our Aiken Antique Show, experimented with a new art medium, or discovered a local work of art in our Gallery Shop, you have helped to bring the ACA to life,” explains Executive Director Caroline Gwinn. “Today, our mission is to continue to give back, inspire, and educate by providing unique visual and performing arts experiences for all ages. We strive to be a creative space where people can gather in the spirit of community, to enjoy one another, and to celebrate art as a shared experience. We are looking ahead and continually searching for diverse ways to deliver our mission through dynamic arts partnerships we enjoy with our community.”
Aiken Center for the Arts meets the need for greater accessibility through scholarships for workshops and summer camps, as well as programs designed to create art experiences for special populations. “For instance, our Art and Music Camp for Special Needs started in 2017 with one week of camp for 5–13-year-olds,” illustrates Caroline. “This year, with the support of two other local non-profits, we are offering two weeks of this summer camp to all ages, along with six one-day workshops throughout the year. Joy in the Journey is also an example of inclusion for those in our community living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, whereby we send an art therapist into nursing homes to conduct one-on-one painting sessions with residents.”
On the same note, lifelong folk musician Roger Bellow is also teaching a week-long ukulele camp infused with music, art, and language at ACA this summer. Students will receive their own ukuleles, learn how to play through folk music with whimsical melodies in Spanish and English, and even turn their ukulele into a personal work of art. In the fall, Berita Martin will then join Roger to teach students the Spanish language through interactive performances of original children’s book songs.
The opportunities for inclusion at our community arts center also extend to exhibiting artists. Their doors open conversations with community members and visitors alike, and this ongoing collaboration with people and organizations bring ideas that Caroline’s team weaves into their mission throughout the year. Having grown up in rural South Carolina and recently moved to Aiken, James André is signing ACA’s month-long summer exhibition. As a traveling artist, André’s brush speaks the language of movement, with an accent that is full of life. He brings together energy and color to convey his heart and soul, and we get to explore the joie de vivre in his artworks from June 17 to July 23 in this unique summer exhibition, free and open to the public.