Through its various events and exhibits, the Vermillion Area Arts Council (VAAC) hopes to show Vermillion residents the important impact that the arts can have on a community.
The VAAC was founded in the early 1970’s with the goal of creating a stronger appreciation for the arts. Their mission statement outlines the goals of their organization.
“The Vermillion Area Arts Council believes a vibrant presence of the visual, performance and literary arts is essential to a sustainable community. We feed the creative spirit and inspire the minds of our areas multicultural community by offering instruction in the arts and by providing opportunities for artists and audiences of all ages to perform, exhibit and enjoy the arts,” reads the mission statement.
Phyllis Packard, VAAC treasurer, said the arts council purchased the Saint Agnes church in the mid 1980’s to become the Washington Street Arts Center. The arts council holds various exhibits and performances in the Washington Street Arts Center.
“Just keeping the building nice for events is a large commitment,” she said.
Norma Wilson, former president of the arts council and former USD English professor now serves as a member of the council, said the arts council tries to have exhibits that are not only visual arts, but also poetry readings and musical performances. The current president of the council is Don Pryce.
“We support artists of all ages and we have sponsored USD student’s art exhibits. We have worked very much in coordination with USD,” Wilson said.
Some of the events the arts council have held with USD include women in the arts night and a Martin Luther King Jr. day event. In addition to events with the university, the arts council also exhibits the artwork of members of the Vermillion community as well as traveling art shows.
“We also think it is important to bring artists from other places to kind of inspire the community,” Wilson said.
Coming up on April 7, they will be hosting singer-songwriter Hank Harris in concert
The council holds various classes in a wide variety of topics. Right now, the council is holding a Lakota language class. One of the biggest events hosted by the arts council is the “Messy Hands arts camp.”
The weeklong event takes place in the summer, and children from ages five all the way to their teens are welcome to attend.
The students take various art classes throughout the week, then at the end, an exhibit is held so the students can showcase their artwork.
Members of the art council hope that their organization will help people realize the importance of the arts.
Cindy Aden, VAAC secretary, said she joined the arts council but just recently decided to become more involved after the last presidential election.
“When I realized there was a good likelihood the arts were going to lose a lot of support, I realized I had to do something besides sit around and yell,” Aden said. “I had to get active, so I decided to join the board.”
Aden said she hopes the council will continue to grow and have a completely full board.
“It’s hard to make long-term plans when the board fluctuates. It is a large commitment this is definitely a dive in with both feet situation,” she said.
Aden hopes the VAAC will help the community understand the importance of the arts.
“We are trying to appeal to a broad base and not try to limit ourselves to saying that art is a simple thing because it’s not,” Aden said.
Video by Dustin VanHunnik for Coyote News.