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Friday, September 19, 2008

How Whitewater keeps the arts in the public eye


When my kids were little, they would try to catch butterflies. They didn't call them butterflies, though; they called them flutterbys, which seemed appropriate after watching them dance around the backyard.

You can catch your own butterfly Sept. 27 when the Whitewater Arts Alliance holds its annual auction.

If you've been through Whitewater this summer, perhaps you've noticed the colorful, hand-painted butterflies hanging from the light poles. The annual public art project is one of the more visible elements of a thriving arts community in Whitewater.

The alliance supports the arts in Whitewater, but its contribution goes beyond that by showing the collective power of people coming together to create and support an important public institution.

Usually, that role falls to government or business, but in Whitewater, members of the community have stepped to the forefront.

"We can say the city should do this, or the city should do that, but people don't want to pay more taxes," said Dawn Hunter, Whitewater Arts Alliance board member and organizer of this year's public art project.

The growing role of the arts in Whitewater has given community members a venue to share their talents, Hunter said.

In addition to the public art project, the group organizes the annual Fountain Arts Festival and was instrumental in the opening of the Whitewater Cultural Arts Center.

The center, in the White Memorial Building on West Main Street, is run by the Whitewater Arts Alliance, a nonprofit organization, Hunter said.

The group gave new life to an old building when they agreed to lease it from the city a year ago, and the auction helps keep it running.

"It's the major fundraiser for the Cultural Arts Center," Hunter said, "and averages around $5,000 to $7,000." For many of the successful bidders, the auction isn't really about the art, but about supporting the community. "Many times we have people who are supportive and will bid on (the auction items) and then give them back to the artists," Hunter said.

The auction will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Cultural Arts Center, 402 W. Main St.,

Advance tickets for Whitewater Arts Alliance members are $8. Tickets for non members are $10. Tickets are available at the Commercial Bank, First Citizens Bank, GMA Printing and the Sweet Spot Coffee Shoppe.

The cost at the door the day of the event is $15.

The annual public art project began four years ago, and has become something the community looks forward to each summer.

Previous projects have been fish, chairs and birdhouses.

The theme for next year's project won't be revealed until the auction, Hunter said. She did hint that one of the issues in Whitewater over the past year has been to foster greater cooperation between the city and the university.

The public art project revolves around that idea, Hunter said. Which is just another example of how a community-based institution plays an important role in the vitality of the city.

~Dan Plutchak, associate editor

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