— Jackie Genis

Arts of Clark County cavalry – in the form of its grant program – galloped over $3,600 into the lives of three nonprofits and three individuals to support projects spanning a wide array of artistic mediums. The annual grant program is designed to help other organizations and artists to complete projects that benefit the Clark County arts community and align with the vision of Arts of Clark County.

“We are trying in our small way to offer a predictable program for the community,” said Karen Madsen, chair of Arts of Clark County. “I have heard from so many artists how discouraging it is to apply for regional grants year after year only to be turned down, and this leaves many of our artists without the small needed help a wonderful project might require to achieve fruition.”

Recipients for this year’s grants include Magenta Theater, a local acting group, Northwest Harmony to purchase a portable sound system to enhance their vocal performances, Friends of Three Creeks Library Art Shows to fund stipends for the popular artist talk series, artist and science illustrator Barbara Wright for her Ridgefield Arts Experience group, Poets in the Schools, a collaborative art project with Clark County Poet Laureate Christopher Luna, and David Cummings’ project:PRINT to create printmaking workshops for the public.

“There was no set process or procedure for (grant) requests,” said Madsen, “and usually the need was urgent, and our ability to help was limited by our resources.”

Not anymore. Madsen explained the Board realized offering small grants to artists and nonprofits could help to remedy this issue by providing predictable timeframes and a process encouraging them to carefully plan and budget for their projects. Artists of all disciplines, including music, dance, visual arts, and writing are encouraged to apply.

“We frequently experienced computer crashes in rehearsals and even during performances,” said Jaynie Roberts, artistic director for Magenta Theatre, before purchasing a custom computer station to power and store the sound design for their 10 plus yearly shows. “Since that time, our sound designers and sound operators have felt a greater sense of confidence for our productions.”

Ridgefield Arts Experience was also grateful to receive needed funding. “We self-funded for the first two years,” said Barbara Wright creator of the Ridgefield Arts Experience group with community librarian Sean McGill, and Rob Melton, owner and director of Opus School of Music in Ridgefield and Camas. “We were fortunate to get two small grants this year for our production.”

Ridgefield Arts Experience puts on very cool productions. “It is about community building,” said Sean McGill, Ridgefield community librarian and a facilitator for Ridgefield Arts Experience.

The group coordinates musical, artistic, and literary arts projects for elementary and middle school students as part of the annual Ridgefield Youth Arts Month happening now. Ridgefield’s Youth Arts annual event is the result of a partnership between the Ridgefield School District and surrounding community. The national Youth Arts Month program encourages lifetime creativity while striving to expand arts education.

Wright’s Ridgefield Arts Experience group includes 20 to 25 third through eighth grade students this year. The group purpose or “experience” includes a three hour performance created live covering all aspects of building the story script from the chosen book, producing the music, making the costumes and scenery, and interpreting and acting the story before an audience. After a short rehearsal, Wright said, the grand performance happens.

“We build the story, and we hope we improve every year,” said Wright. “This year, we will use the story Francis Goes to School by Tim Dawdy, and as you can expect, it is improvised as we go along, but we and the audience all have great fun.”

The Ridgefield Arts Experience group performance is happening March 22 from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Union Ridge Elementary School in Ridgefield. To learn more about Ridgefield Arts Month and the many activities happening, including the kickoff show – Art Alive! – Saturday, March 5 at the Old Liberty Theatre in downtown Ridgefield visit www.ridgefieldyoutharts.com. The kick off show will feature top performers in their craft across an array of mediums.