The Early Years
In the late 1960’s the Gainesville Junior Service League commissioned a feasibility study to determine if the community would benefit from a multidisciplinary arts organization. The study uncovered both need and desire and The Arts Council was established, with the help of the Georgia Council for the Arts, in 1970, incorporating in 1972.
A small volunteer Board governed and operated The Arts Council, primarily out of their own homes, including the home of the Art's Council founders, Lessie Smithgall. The key focus of the organization was to maintain the community master calendar, diminishing scheduling conflicts, and to promote arts programs. The Arts Council soon moved its "office" space from board members homes to a desk drawer in the Chamber of Commerce building in Gainesville.
It was in the mid 1970s when The Arts Council hired it’s first staff member, part-time, and broadened its focus to provide programming and services to meet specific needs of the community, its members, and affiliate arts organizations. Headquarters for the organization was in the Elachee Cottage (now the Chamber of Commerce parking lot) before moving to it's home in the City of Gainesville's Green Street Station, which the Arts Council shared with its affiliates Georgia Mountains History Museum (now the Northeast Georgia History Center), Elachee Science Nature Center and Georgia Mountain Crafts.
By 1983, the board believed that a full-time, dedicated staff would be needed to truly fulfill The Arts Council's mission. Gladys Wyant was hired that same year as Executive Director and she continues to lead the organization today.
The Growth Years
During the late 1980s the Arts Council’s support base expanded, and programming broadened, reflecting the diverse needs of the community. It was during this time that long running programs like the Arts Council Pearce Series, Friends of the Arts, Arts Council Affiliate Organizations and Arts in Schools began.
In the early 1990’s The Arts Council purchased a 2.5-acre tract and 1914 era railroad depot in Gainesville’s central business district from CSX Railroad. Over 400 community leaders and citizens provided input for the intended use and development of the property. The focus groups envisioned a facility that would be a catalyst for the central business district redevelopment used for arts programming and various community activities.
2000 and Beyond
In the early 2000s, the First Methodist church in downtown Gainesville was gifted to The Arts Council, enabling the organization to offer even more arts programming. The total property is about 40,000 square feet, consisting of three buildings, which in total is called The Arts Council Performing Arts Complex:
- the former sanctuary and fellowship space
- a three story educational building
- a two-story house, which served as a former parsonage
The Arts Council Performing Arts Complex has benefited from it's first phase of restoration, but we continue to seek support for completing our vision, just as was done for the train depot.
Today, The Arts Council promotes over 30 arts affiliate organizations, continues in its annual presentation of The Signature Series, Arts in Schools, Evenings of Intimate Jazz, in addition to other arts programs and services, and serves as a Grassroots arts grant agency for a ten county region.