Art school plans anniversary celebration

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By April Wright, Reporter


As Chris Shackelford, director of Chestnut Creek School of the Arts, discusses plans for its first year anniversary event — an evening of music and art at a gala on April 16 from 7-10 p.m. — she talks the accomplishments the school has made in one year and where it’s headed.
“I’m very excited about the group of volunteers we have working together,” said Shackelford. “The school is continually evolving, and we’ve been very forward-thinking.”
It was almost eight years ago that the idea was conceived to create a school to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of Southwest Virginia through classes in arts and crafts. CCSA moved into its permanent home — the former First National Bank at Main and Grayson streets — last February, after years of planning and renovations to the historic facility.
To commemorate the anniversary, the school will hold a gala, similar to last year’s grand opening event attended by 250 people.
Music for the night will include Eddie Davis on piano, Stevie Barr and Friends with bluegrass and Chestnut Creek Singers with a Broadway medley.
Instructors at the school will display their work, including leather work, portrait painting, fiber art and more.
Also, there will be two sculpture exhibits. Briant Matheson will have on display his big fish sculptures and William Brock will showcase his rusted birds — both of which will hang at the school throughout the month of April.
CCSA, which functions as part of the City of Galax, is looking to become self-sustaining through grant funding, tuition and a capital endowment campaign of $3.5 million.
A silent auction is also set for the event to help raise funds for the campaign. Attendees will be able to bid on vacation packages, gift certificates, household items, art classes, fine art and more.
At the kickoff gala last year, it was revealed that the Dixon family had made a generous contribution and would get the naming rights to the bank vault at CCSA. At the first year anniversary event, CCSA will unveil the name of the vault.
All proceeds from the auction and ticket sales to the gala will go towards the school’s capital endowment campaign.
Food will be provided by Chip Sauter of Chestnut Creek Coffee House and Patrick Butler of Purple Feet Wine Shop.
“The grand opening last year was such as success, we wanted to hold another event of its kind,” said Shackelford, noting that this is one of two major fundraisers for the school. Plans are being made for the second fundraiser, which will be held in the fall.
CCSA’s goals are to communicate the value of art and traditional music, improve arts education, encourage cultural enrichment and creativity,  promote economic development and preserve the heritage of Southwest Virginia.
Since it opened last year, CCSA has brought in more than 10,000 visitors to the facility, from those taking classes to those just taking a peek at the facility. More than 400 students have participated in 200-plus classes that have been offered.
More than 20 front desk volunteers have logged 1,500 hours equivalent to $25,000 in staff time, based on federal calculations of $20 per hour. Including members of the school board of directors, advisory board and other committee boards, the school has accumulated more than 100 volunteers and supporters.
Among its accomplishments, CCSA formed a Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) program last year to teach Galax students in grades 5 through 8 how to play traditional mountain music. The after-school program is in its third round of classes, teaching 40 students each time.
Shackelford said the school is obtaining grants to fund this program, which provides affordable music lessons to students wanting to learn how to play traditional music of the area.
CCSA plans to add more youth programs, including theater classes. It will also partner with Galax schools to show how music and the arts can teach students other types of subjects through experiential learning.
CCSA has been working to secure grants to create a woodwright and luthier shop at a city-owned facility located in downtown Galax.
Last year, CCSA opened Oldtown Pottery studio at 110 Oldtown St.
“I’m amazed at what has happened over the year,” said Shackelford. “It is the most humbling experience I’ve ever had, and I’m just amazed at the way the community has embraced the school…We have an excellent infrastructure, and we’ll see more growth from that.”