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Mourning the loss of Sharptop Arts

By Dan Pool
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    It’s too late to do anything about it, but in my thinking Pickens County lost something important last week. Apparently few other people feel this way, as lack of interest is what doomed the Sharptop Arts Center on D.B. Carroll Street.
    The arts center has held shows, contests and workshops there for more than 30 years. Both youth and adult art shows were featured most years. I have been impressed by the works displayed there by members of this community. I have enjoyed many of the shows, heard very good music and bought stuff at their auctions that hang in my house.
    It was a community center that also hosted all manner of events that the Progress has covered.
    The Jasper Lions Club (which donated the building to Sharptop with the understanding that if they disband ownership goes back to the Lions) will now put the building to use for their club, which is indisputably a good organization. That’s not the problem. The Lions have pledged a focus on the arts with a new alliance. While the club means well, the arts is not their central mission.    
    This alliance may find new ways to re-energize the art community in Pickens County, something that Sharptop could not do in their last several years – and maybe something that just can’t be done.
    There is no way to view the closing of the arts center as anything but a setback for the community, a sore mark, a bruise.
    Even if you never attended anything there and didn’t appreciate painting and photography, concerts or open mic nights, the loss of a 30-year institution looks bad.
    Simply put, in Pickens County there was not enough interest to keep the arts center open. In the past few years, Sharptop board members regularly noted their dwindling volunteer base and financial constraints.
    The last  director, who left in frustration, called me regularly to see if I had any ideas on what might reinvigorate people. She wasn’t looking for money so much as people who were enthusiastic. I brainstormed with her, but nothing seemed to help.
    Maybe it was a case of everyone hoping someone else would step up. In any event, by the time the Lions announced their takeover last week, Sharptop had been dormant for months – and no one visibly noticed or cared.
    Either way, we are now short a central community arts center. I’m confident the Lions will do wonderfully making it available as a public space, but we fear that the folks who rolled up their sleeves for art are now without a space. There are a smattering of arts groups and galleries in the county, but none with the central location and history of Sharptop.
    I remember a conversation once with an older native Pickens man who complained about his wife’s flowering shrubs and trees – they made it hard to cut the grass. “Yeah, but they make the house look nice for people passing by,” I replied. He was unconvinced that a plainer yard wasn’t better.
    A community arts center is the same as those flowery shrubs – it takes a little work to maintain one, but it makes the whole community look better.
    Generally when you write an editorial, you want to encourage people to consider something to take actions or support something. Unfortunately, we don’t know of anything that can be done for our closed down art center other than to mourn its passing.