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By Mitchell Bond
Over the past six months, people who have come to the Bedford County Administration Building on West Main Street will have noticed that the once bare walls of the three story complex are now covered with art.
The art is part of a two-year showcase of local artists titled “The Art and Artisans of Bedford County.” This exhibition, which changes quarterly, features work of nearly 20 artists and craft artisans at a time.
Organizers hope that displaying art in this venue will draw attention to the many talented people in Bedford and, as the signs accompanying the exhibition indicate, how local art “fosters economic development, tourism and community pride.”
Bedford definitely has much to be proud of when it comes to the arts. It may be one of our best kept secrets but Bedford has long had a broad range of creative people and organizations.
The fact that over 100 sites have been identified as potential participants in the developing artisan trail is proof of that. Our community has created a home to live theatre, music of all varieties, and visual arts for decades and a number of promising opportunities are on the horizon. For the purposes of this article, persons from several key arts venues were asked to reflect on how their work fosters a sense of community pride.
Bower Center for the Arts
Bower Center for the Arts, under the umbrella of the Wharton Memorial Foundation, is a non-profit art center nestled in the heart of Bedford.
The Bower Center has been operating as an arts center since 2006, initially as Bedford Academy for the Arts and following a merger in June 2008 with The Wharton Memorial Foundation, as Bower Center for the Arts.
The Bower Center is named for the mother and father of Bedford native, Dr. John Bower, whose generous donation allowed for the purchase of the building in 2005. The Bower Center supports the local community by providing exhibit space and hosting musical performances. Bower also offers arts education programs for children.
Sara Braaten, Bower Center’s Acting Director, notes “We are excited that community organizations that work with children are becoming aware with what we do and are reaching out for our help.”
Over the past year, more than 250 children visited Bower to participate in quality art and music activities. Braaten proudly adds, “Bedford can say that they have a growing non-profit art center here that meets community needs.”
The Bedford Community Orchestra
Emily Masters serves as Orchestra Manager for The Bedford Community Orchestra which was founded in 1989 with the goal of bringing quality orchestral music to Bedford and the surrounding areas.
Masters says, “It is very rare to have a full orchestra in a community the size of Bedford, and the BCO has been referred to as one of “Bedford’s best kept secrets.”
When asked how the work of the Bedford Community Orchestra develops a sense of community pride, Master’s adds, “Music brings together both musicians and audiences to enjoy one common language. Each week 50 people come together from over 11 counties and many different backgrounds. All issues of differences are set aside and we all come together as one whole.”
The Bedford Community Orchestra is looking forward to their fall concert on Friday, October 27 which will feature local singer-songwriter Paddy Dougherty.
When Bedford Hardware owners Bill Mosley and Elizabeth Berry-Mosley completed the remodeling of the upstairs of their late 1800s building on South Bridge Street in 2003, a local furniture maker suggested christening the space by holding an exhibit of locally made furniture.
From that, Bill Mosley says, “Art Upstairs was born.”
Since that time, Art Upstairs has been an ongoing venue for local artists. Perched at the top of a wide wood staircase and flooded with sunlight from the floor to ceiling windows, Art Upstairs is a unique experience – unique because it offers one-of-a-kind creations and unique because of it shares space with nuts and bolts, tools and paint supplies.
Mosley points out that his primary business is hardware sales and service and while Art Upstairs provides an outlet for local art and crafts it also serves as a draw to let people know about the unique experience the hardware store has to offer.
Mosley says, “Several generations ago every town had its old hardware store(s). No longer the case, Bedford Hardware is now a rare breed, and more so still by virtue of offering the beautiful Art Upstairs gallery to our artists and to the Bedford community.”
The Sedalia Center
“We remain devoted to the idea that a life well-lived is a work of art, and that art exists in the everyday world, palpable to any who recognize it,” says Sedalia Center Director Doris McCabe.
In 1988, the former Counter Ridge School in Sedalia returned to public service when Dr. and Mrs. William O. McCabe purchased the building and grounds in a blind auction. Rechristened the Sedalia Center, and with the aid of Mr. and Mrs. A.C. “Buzzy” Coleman, the old school embarked on a mission to foster the Art of Living and the Living Arts.
The Sedalia Center hosts several annual music, art, and cultural events. They are open to the public and always feature an educational component.
Additionally, Sedalia partners with the Bedford Public Schools to bring art educators together for workshops and seminars that focus on their development as professionals in both the arts and education. Through such activities, Sedalia fulfills its mission to “promote, preserve, and enhance the cultural heritage within the community of Virginia and foster education in the arts for all ages.”
McCabe notes that “Sedalia has set itself the task of being a site of integration for the creative process that transforms the necessary work of our daily lives into mindful living and even performing art.”
Among its fall activities will be the 2nd Annual Art and Architecture Show on Saturday, November 10. This event will feature a retrospective exhibit of work by artist and Sedalia Center co-founder Annis McCabe.
The Web site livability.com recently cited Bedford’s arts opportunities as a factor in the choosing Bedford as one of the top 10 best places to live. This is a fact we can all be proud of.
”The Art and Artisans of Bedford County” Exhibition at the County Administration Building was planned in part to serve as a reminder that our local “creative economy” is alive and well established.
Bedford has a strong arts foundation built by organizations such as Bower Center for the Arts, the Bedford Community Orchestra, Art Upstairs and the Sedalia Center. These fine folks, along with other arts related organizations and businesses and scores of talented artists, artisan crafters, musicians and others have been and continue to be working to build our community.