HCA officially opens the doors to a whole new world of celebrating the arts

HCA officially opens the doors to a whole new world of celebrating the arts

Image Credit: Dave Mast

pit bull: that ferocious, beloved animal that sinks its teeth in and won’t let go once it sets its mind to something.

Not once, not twice but three times Holmes Center for the Arts executive director Holley Johnson was referred to as a pit bull during the ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the grand opening of the new Holmes Center for the Arts facility at 5200 state Route 39 on the west edge of Berlin.

While the center came about because of many, it was Johnson’s vision and tenacity that pulled it all together to make this day possible.

“What an articulate advocate and pit bull Holmes County has in Holly,” said Ohio State Sen. Jay Hottinger, who was on hand to help celebrate the occasion and present Johnson with a proclamation honoring the center.

He spoke about how Ohio legislators were able to garner $600,000 toward the capital improvement funding for the center several years ago. Two years ago they were able to find another $250,000 to finish off phase one of the building, which leaves phase two, the theater portion of the facility, on tap.

“This is an excellent example of what a community can do by leveraging public and private dollars,” Hottinger said. “When I think of Holmes County, I always think of faith, family, friends and food. With Holly’s work and the talented artisans who are here from young to old, with a myriad of skill levels, we have to start thinking of Holmes County as a place to celebrate the arts.”

Holmes County commissioner Joe Miller also spoke, commending Johnson, the board and the many people who took the center from dream to reality. He said he remembered the first time Johnson and her peers came to visit the commissioners to explain what they had in mind. He wondered then if they realized what they were undertaking.

Miller said after a while he also came to realize they were dealing with a pit bull who wasn’t going to let this dream slip out of grasp.

“There was no stopping her and that group of people,” Miller said. “This group wants to serve. What they have done here is amazing, and we are blessed to be in Holmes County.”

Johnson said growing and offering even more opportunities in the arts is now where the board will turn its attention.

In essence the passion of the HCA board has opened the door to a new world of art appreciation and allowed the people of Holmes County and beyond to fulfill their passion to perform and create.

“This is more than a building,” Johnson said of the new facility. “This is a place where people will come together for generations to learn, create, tell stories and grow through music, art, dance and theater. This is a place where community is built and lives are enriched.”

As a child Johnson traveled around the world, calling many tours of duty with her military father home. She said having settled in Holmes County for 15 years has made her realize why 4 million visitors choose to travel to the county annually.

She said the values of the people of Holmes County including faith, hard work, family and serving others are seen by those who visit. She said creating an arts center that embraced those values was critical to the center building its new home.

“When we began HCA seven years ago, we knew we wanted it to be an arts center that reflects our community while offering the highest quality arts education,” Johnson said. “We strived to do that in everything we do in our community, from our classes, our performances and our outreach programs.”

She said in addition to presenting its array of regular classes, the center seeks to reach the underserved through programs for the elderly, disabled, for those facing financial hardships and after-school programs for at-risk teens.

“We have no desire to change Holmes County, only to use our gifts, our talents and this building for the good of those around us,” Johnson said.

Johnson spoke glowingly of the many individuals and businesses that helped finance the center, the building companies that designed and built the facility, and the legislators who helped find avenues of financial support through capital funding.

The new facility has already begun to pay dividends, with various classes already being filled.

“We’re already able to do so many more classes than we were able to,” art teacher Cathie Lynch said. “We are doing so much more. We have classes every day, in the evenings and on weekends. We have after-school classes for kids. It’s a fabulous space to be in, a real dream come true.”

HCA board member Tanya Schlabach was one of those who noted Johnson’s bulldog mentality, crediting her with getting people connected and involved with the project and making it come to life.

“You have to be passionate about bringing something like this to life,” Schlabach said. “I love seeing her bringing that, and getting the community involved is critical. There is so much potential.”

The HCA board includes Cheryl Shaver, president; Marianne Mader, vice president; Susan Lehman, secretary; Steve Kilpatrick, treasurer; Kim Mullet; Tanya Schlabach; Jay McCulloch; Jaime White; and Mark Woods.

For those desiring to help fund phase two of the center, they may call or email Johnson at 330-473-2879 or holmescenterforthearts@gmail.com or donate on the website at www.holmescenterforthearts.org/donate.

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