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Conyers/Rockdale arts council intensifies fundraising efforts

CONYERS -- The Conyers Rockdale Council for the Arts is ramping up its efforts to raise money this year in order to make up for a budget deficit caused by funding cuts.

The non-profit arts organization is operating with $35,000 less in 2012, after the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners decided not to fund CRCA.

The total budget for CRCA is $80,000, and includes the operation of the Center Streets Arts theater at 910 Center St. in Olde Town Conyers, and the employment of a full-time executive director and two part-time staff. The city of Conyers contributes $25,000 to CRCA and the remainder of the budget used to be provided by Rockdale County, and supplemented by grants and private contributions.

The Rockdale County Board of Commissioners ceased funding this year to all outside, non-governmental groups that they are not under a state mandate to support. The cutback saved the county over $2 million in spending during a difficult budget time for local governments. The cuts also came during a debate two years ago on who should receive county funds and who should not. When the commissioners could not come up with a solution, they decided to stop funding for all groups.

Now, with the funding almost cut in half, CRCA is searching for other sources of revenue to make it through the year.

"We're just going to continue to work really hard," said CRCA Executive Director Jackie Sprague.

One upcoming fundraiser planned is a cake decorating contest called Tasty Works of Art in which participants pay an entry fee and prepare a Broadway-themed cake for the contest. The contest will be held April 21 in conjunction with the Taste of Conyers event.

CRCA is also hopeful that Abbey Road Live, a concert of Beatles music, will generate revenue. The concert is set for June 9 in the Pavilion at Olde Town and features a live band playing Beatles favorites such as "Abbey Road," "Magical Mystery Tour," and "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band."

Other events to benefit CRCA include a 5K race, dubbed Arts in Motion, set for Oct. 6, and an evening of live music, called A Night of Original Songs and Intimate Conversations with Local Songwriters.

Despite the reduction in finances, the CRCA continues to presents arts events to the community such as the Preschool Pops program in which children ages 3 to 5 are entertained with live performances by puppeteers, story tellers, singers, dancers and musicians.

CRCA is also working in conjunction with the Mixed Nuts Comedy Network to present comedy shows in the black box theater, with the next performance set for March 17.

The New Depot Players, a community theater group which performs in the black box theater, will offer a full slate of shows this year, including "The Glass Menagerie," "'Til Beth Do Us Part," "The Great American Trailer Park Musical," and "Almost, Maine."

Local families can also expect the CRCA summer children's programming to continue, which includes two weeks of ArtSmart Camp held at Memorial Middle School and Drama Camp at the Rockdale Auditorium.

Sprague urges the community to support CRCA by attending shows, participating in the camps, making private donations and advertising in event brochures.

Arts events presented by CRCA offer an opportunity for local residents to have an enjoyable night out without having to burden the expense of traveling into Atlanta, said Sprague. There's also an added benefit to the local economy when residents patronize local restaurants before and after shows.

The economic development aspect of the arts should not be underestimated, said Sprague.

"People move into a community based on what's available for children and families," she said.

To learn about the Conyers Rockdale Council for the Arts or to donate or volunteer, visit www.conyersarts.org or call 770-922-3143.