By Christina Whiting
Since 1975, Homer Council on the Arts has worked hard to connect and engage the community by providing opportunities for community members to experience and participate in the arts.
“I want people to think of creativity as part of their everyday life,” said Director Gail Edgerly. “When people think of HCOA, I want them to think of the work we do to facilitate art as an integral part of life, accessible to everyone.”
Now, HCOA is looking toward the future. Last week, they held a community meeting to share plans to remodel the existing building, remove the adjacent Etude building, add more parking, manage the creek that runs beneath the property and revamp their programs and outreach.
“We want to let the community know the direction we’re heading and find a way to engage more individuals to work with us,” Edgerly said.
Since spring, HCOA has participated in the Foraker Group Pre-Development Program, sponsored by the Rasmuson Foundation. They have discussed ways to remodel the existing main building that houses staff and serves as a rehearsal, classroom, workshop and performance space. One goal is to make the building more energy-efficient and wheelchair-accessible; another is to create spaces that are autonomous and separate, that could be rented out for workshops, rehearsals, art classes and other uses, without interruption by other user groups or the staff. The creation of a smaller gallery meeting area and an art room would open to a larger gallery space.
“The remodel would make this space more efficient and more of an option for the community to use,” Edgerly said.
Among their many goals, HCOA plans to raze the Etude building adjacent to the main building. The Homer Foundation and Rasmuson have agreed to help fund demolition to take place this summer, with more parking added in its place.
“We are so grateful to Mary Epperson for donating the building to us two years ago, but in working to try to have it fit our needs, we’ve discovered it’s not a building structurally worth renovating,” Edgerly said.
In the process of looking at the Etude building, HCOA decided to focus on responsible stewardship of Woodard Creek, which runs under their parking lot through a culvert. Following the Pratt Museum’s example, HCOA plans to remove the culvert and open the stream. The Homer Arts and Culture Alliance, Pratt Museum, members from the Parks and Recreation Commission and other community members have come together to consider HCOA’s options for bringing Woodard Creek back as a natural and healthy community resource.
“Restoring a stream is not exactly our mission, but we have a responsibility to this property,” Edgerly said. “Reclaiming the stream as a natural resource opens beautification and outdoor art opportunities.”
Once the culvert has been removed, a small car bridge and pedestrian footbridge will cross the creek for access to the back area of HCOA’s property. HCOA is also looking at a possible path along the creek, connecting arts and culture in Homer — from Bunnell Street Art Center to HCOA and the Pratt Museum.
Edgerly said HCOA is also eager for community input and participation in other areas, including programming and outreach.
“In order to proceed, we need more individuals to participate in the development, fundraising and implementation of programming,” Edgerly said. “Our successful events and activities are ones where a core group of people invested in the success of the program work together.”
HCOA is currently seeking volunteers to help in specific areas, including building and site projects, gallery performances, outreach and programs. Ideally, they would form small “teams” to assist in specific areas of interest.
“The plan is to offer volunteer opportunities in bite-size pieces, rather than over-burdening a few,” Edgerly said.
Edgerly is looking for volunteers to form a building and site team that will work on the remodel and advise the board and staff. This could include contractors, gardeners, landscapers, artists; nearly anyone with a vested interest in assisting with the building remodel, daylighting Woodard Creek and beautification of the area.
HCOA also needs assistance with outreach; specifically with a Community Art program that takes art to the homebound, as well as reaching out to villages and schools.
“When we brought blues artist Hawkeye Herman to the villages in February, it really woke me up to the fact that these communities are our neighbors,” Edgerly said. “We want to include the villages in our mission, bringing local talent to the them as an artist exchange of sorts.”
Community members have also shared with HCOA their desire for more artists in the schools, and Edgerly said they would like to expand their creative communities program and artist registry to better serve Homer artists. Both programs are meant to support the creative process, connect artists to each other and to the community.
The HCOA vision is to connect and engage the community through the arts. With eyes set to the future, they have numerous plans in the works and are eager for more individual participation from community members.
“Nonprofits thrive with committed and engaged volunteers,” Edgerly said. “We are attempting to shift the structure of the nonprofit so that volunteering is manageable, desirable and satisfying.”
If you would like to get involved with Homer Council on the Arts, contact Edgerly at 235-4288.
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