Discover the ‘Center’ of the art community

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(Photo/Sarah Mountain)

Andrea Hammack

Staff writer

Located in downtown Troy, the Johnson Center for the Arts (JCA) is the center of the city’s small but growing art scene. 

The Center is a collective effort to bring and keep the arts circulating through the communities in and around Troy. 

Executive Director Brenda Campbell is in charge of general operations for the Center and gave some insight into the exhibits and events happening at the JCA. 

“Currently, we have Winfred Hawkins in the upper-level galleries,” Campbell said. “’Reality Is Not Real’ is the part of the exhibit that he has done that reflects his struggles with having dyslexia and having to paint with his non-dominant hand due to an injury to his left arm.

“One of my favorites of his is ‘That Southern Politeness,’ I think it’s really neat. Some people come in and they don’t know how to take it because it’s sort of introspective.” 

In the lower-level galleries, the JCA is showcasing the work of Leanna Lesley, a jazz artist who works with needlepoint. 

“For Black History Month, this is one of my favorite parts of it,” Campbell said. “It’s just amazing; she even does fiber art on jackets and chairs.”

The Center hosts a variety of artists and exhibits throughout the year, which takes a lot of planning ahead of time, according to Wiley White, the exhibitions coordinator for the JCA. 

“We plan yearly exhibits,” White said. “So we have our exhibit committee meeting in early summer, but the previous year up until that meeting we are keeping records and jotting down names of artists that we would love to have here.”

The Center features all kinds of media and tries to keep a variety when scheduling for the year by staggering the types of artists shown. 

“We will have a sculptor one month, then the next month a painter, and the next ceramics or something like that to get things going in different ways,” White said. “The challenge is having it where people don’t get bored with what we present.”

The artists featured are usually chosen by the committee, and then the artist gets to choose the space that they want, whether that be upper or lower-level galleries.

“Sometimes they have a preference, sometimes they don’t, depending on whether we already have something planned in one of the galleries or not,” White said. “For instance, Winfred wanted the whole upper-level.”

Artists are not charged anything to have their art displayed in the gallery.

“That’s the wonderful thing about this gallery,” White explained. “First of all, we are admission-free, and then artists do not pay to have a show here.”

There are many ways in which the Center promotes itself and raises money in order to keep the exhibits free. 

One of the biggest fundraisers that is held for the JCA occurs during Christmas time, Christmas at the Center.

“We plan a live auction and a silent auction,” White said. “We’ve been doing that for several years, and it may be our largest fundraiser.

“We also have a good membership base, and we get monthly appropriations from the business community in Troy. We are always thinking of things that help us stay here.”

Besides raising money, building an audience and reputation has also been an important aspect of keeping the Center up and running. 

While the Center’s main goal is to display art, there are many events held at the JCA, as well. This includes an array of artist talks and receptions, holiday-specific events, private events and more. 

“We have an artist talk for each exhibit,” Campbell said. “Even though we have already had the talks for the current exhibits, we had a phenomenal turnout.”

February also means having Galentine’s Day at the JCA. 

“Galentine’s Day is Feb. 13 and we’ll have champagne punch, mock champagne punch, and chocolate just to celebrate your gal friends.”

Galentine’s is free and will be held from 2:30-5 p.m. and will include a giveaway of lunch for four. 

Other events coming up for the Center include Plein Air on the Square, Troyfest, an exhibit with Lockheed Martin and more.

Those who need a space for private events, such as graduation parties, may also contact the JCA to rent out one of the gallery spaces.

“We can rent a space for anywhere from six to 190 people,” Campbell explained. 

The Center continues to evolve and has plans for growth in the future in order to expand the arts in Troy. 

“We’re really proud of what we do,” White said. “We’ve got something for everybody, and there’s always something new on the horizon.”

To keep up to date with the events and exhibits held by the Johnson Center for the Arts, to become a member, or to donate, visit johnsoncenterarts.org.

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