A! Magazine for the Arts

One of the carousel animals which are being created by volunteers.

One of the carousel animals which are being created by volunteers.

Kingsport creates Office of Cultural Arts

January 30, 2013

A reorganization of the City of Kingsport's Leisure Services Division resulted in the creation of a stand-alone Office of Cultural Arts, highlighting Kingsport's focus on economic as well as cultural opportunities provided by the promotion of all forms of art.

The office coordinates and collaborates with cultural partners and maintains an emphasis on Riverfront cultural development and nurturing public commitment to the arts. "The mission is simple: connect the public with the creative community," Bonnie Macdonald, director, said.

The City of Kingsport further supports art programing through the "Percent for Art" program, which authorizes a sum equivalent to .75 percent of major city capital projects for public art efforts.

"Through the "Percent for Art' program, local, regional and even national artists are asked to create a "sense of place' within Kingsport, illustrating the important stories of our community through art," Macdonald said.

The City of Kingsport Office of Cultural Arts also works with Engage Kingsport, a private, non-profit organization that has already made an impact through its backing of the Carousel Project.

"The Carousel Project is a perfect example of what we hope to achieve through the office, connecting volunteers, who have given literally thousands of hours of time to the project, with the founding carving artists who helped start the project," Macdonald said. "And what is even more remarkable about the Carousel Project is that the founding carvers themselves were not artists at all when the project began. Instead, they undertook training and became skilled carving artisans as a result of their initial desire to secure a carousel as a gift to the community."

Each completed animal requires more than 600 hours of carving. Volunteer animal painters and rounding board painters go through special training in order to achieve dazzling effects that highlight the animals and the carousel frame itself.

"Even the frame of the carousel has borrowed the skills of electricians and mechanics, and there is still room for more to be involved," Macdonald said. "Estimates indicate that by the time of its completion, more than 200 people will have laid hands on the project to bring it to life. Sponsorships from area businesses and corporations will make it possible to build a facility to house and operate the carousel, which is completely hand-crafted, and will be a joyful legacy for the community for decades to come."