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Arts council works under tight budget

CONYERS -- Adapting to significant cuts in funding this year has made operations at the Conyers Rockdale Council for the Arts as tight as a well-choreographed dance performance.

And with less money coming from local government, CRCA officials are looking to local business and residents for support to keep the music playing.

CRCA just completed another successful spring and summer with the annual Preschool Pops and the ArtSmart and Drama summer camps. This year, CRCA had their funding cut by the county government by 60 percent from $100,000 that was in place last year.

The agreement with the county specifies the $40,000 received this year go toward children's programs. While those programs continue, it's been tougher to fund and operate The Gallery in Olde Town Conyers, according to Fran Jones, CRCA chairwoman.

"The Gallery is a tremendous asset to the community. Without any funding from Rockdale County, it will be a struggle to remain open," Jones said in an e-mail response to questions. "Not only does The Gallery display varied works of art, but it (also) holds classes in drawing, watercolor, oils, photography, pottery and more. Without donations from the community, we could lose this facility."

Opened last year and located in the former D. Morgan building on Commercial Street, the gallery and art studio provides space for art shows and educational programs. Resident artists work from space on the second floor of the building.

The Gallery opened with a commitment from the city and county for funding. The county ended its funding of $50,000 while the city of Conyers continued its funding at $25,000.

CRCA adjusted by cutting payroll by 50 percent by using volunteers, Jones said. CRCA also was helped by donations and grants. The ArtSmart Camp benefited from three donations this year: $3,000 from CRCA Board member Elisa Fry, a $2,500 grant from General Mills and $250 from the Conyers Kiwanis Club.

A touring production of "Greater Tuna" was cut from the past season along with most of the other programming. That followed the cancellation of the Spanish Harlem Orchestra concert last year.

To make up in program offerings CRCA is continuing its partnership with the New Depot Players in production and technical support, according to CRCA Artistic Director Ric Chiapetta.

The New Depot Players are continuing their production of "The Great American Trailer Park Musical," with three performances scheduled for 8 p.m. nightly on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Black Box Theatre on Center Street.

Also, CRCA held a successful Valentine Day's event in collaboration with the Borage Grill, The Gallery, Sigman Bottle Shoppe, Conyers Florist Shop and Graffiti Zoo, called the Olde Town Valentine's Day Dinner. The event included a jazz concert, wine tasting and art display.

"We are hoping to have an event like that again this year, if the funding is available," Chiapetta said. "It is our hope that once the economy starts to turn around that we can start up the Music Under the Stars series and eventually other events throughout the year."