The Community School of the Arts in Fort Smith plans to move into its new building on Aug. 1, and its staff couldn't be more excited about it. But the fundraising program, a campaign called "Inspiring Excellence," is still going on to help manage the expenses of construction.
The long awaited Center for Creative Arts on Riverfront Drive will have everything they need in terms of space -- more rehearsal spaces, its own theater to keep from outsourcing the location of its productions, classrooms for high school students, private lesson rooms and executive offices.
One person who shared the feelings both of immense joy at the prospect and responsibility for the nonprofit organization's huge task was local community leader and patron of the arts Rebecca Yarbrough. She supported many arts organizations and served on the board at the Community School.
Before Yarbrough recently died, she made arrangements for her collection of artwork to be auctioned in a fundraiser to benefit the Inspiring Excellence campaign. She hoped her legacy would be to make a difference to others who pursue art.
"Becca Yarbrough devoted her life to helping young people get connected to their artistic talents," says Dr. Rosilee Russell, executive director for CSA. "She spent countless hours in Fort Smith working on projects to help children learn about the arts. She was a friend to so many people in our community and loved by all."
The resulting memorial auction will take place from 6-8 p.m. March 2 at the Bakery District, 70 S. Seventh Street. The Community School of the Arts Youth Theatre Company will perform selections from their upcoming production of "Footloose" beginning at 6:30 p.m.
"We're looking forward to seeing the community come together," says Alli Chastain, marketing assistant and cello instructor for the school. "Becca was a sweet lady and will be very missed. She wanted to see our whole community have art accessible to them and art classes."
Chastain was raised in the area and says she wished that she could have had CSA when she was a young musician. She would have loved the private lessons, ensemble classes and other great opportunities the school provides. But now many other kids, including her son, get the benefits of an arts education before going off to a university.
"We reach a community (with a) 60 mile radius, in Arkansas and Oklahoma," with programs in dance, theater, visual arts and music, Chastain says. That means classes, private lessons, summer camp, even a preschool for creative arts.
"There are no other pre-college, high school level (arts) classes like this in our area, and it's the same for preschool. There are no other arts-based preschools in the state," she says. "We're definitely groundbreaking with those things."
Whether families are hoping that their children will one day have jobs in art fields or not, the classes are beneficial, since music and arts aid the development of fine motor skills and brain development that prove helpful to other subject areas and abilities, Chastain says.
Altogether the auction boasts 51 items. Those in the live auction differ from the items in the silent auction. Most of it is art, including paintings and sculpture, Chastain says, but there are a few other donated items, such as a necklace from Newton's Jewelers.
Among the enviable items for auction is a watercolor by Kay Aclin titled "Man with Fish." In an artist statement, Aclin said that she likes the spontaneity of watercolors and its looseness. She enjoys painting a variety of subjects like landscapes and figures. Recently she's discovered an interest in abstracts.
Project-wise, things are moving along on the Center for Creative Arts. The construction site has walls and stairs now, and the move-in date will take place just in time to begin the fall semester classes at the Institute for Creative Arts, which serves grades nine through 12.
FYI - Becca Yarbrough Memorial Auction
To view the entire collection of items being auctioned, visit www.csafortsmith.org/becca-yarbrough-memorial-auction. The starting bids are listed. Those are the prices for the night of the auction.
If you would like to purchase a piece now and remove it from the auction, you may do so for the Purchase Now Price by calling the CSA office at (479) 434-2020 before March 2.