CAPE CHARLES -- A project visualizing arts as an economic driver and center of community life and engaging the community to work together to make Cape Charles an arts and cultural destination has been recognized for its potential with a recent grant award by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Arts Enter Cape Charles is the recipient of a $50,000 Our Town Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for the Harbor for the Arts project.
"I give the merit and the credit to the fact of how much potential Cape Charles really has -- and they saw it," said Clelia Sheppard, executive director of Arts Enter, about Cape Charles being awarded one of the 80 national grants out of 317 applications nationwide. The awards were announced July 12, and Cape Charles and the city of Roanoke were the only two localities in Virginia to be awarded these grants.
"You see the potential, and I think that must have been where we were able to share that vision with the panelists," Sheppard said.
"It is a touristic gem," Sheppard said. "I don't think there are many towns in this country that can really match Cape Charles."
The project is a partnership of Arts Enter, the town of Cape Charles, the Cape Charles Business Association and Citizens for Central Park, and it "seeks to increase liveability and economic development by forging a new identity for the town of Cape Charles as a Harbor for the Arts."
"All toward a mutual effort," said Hank Mayer, member of the executive committee of the project, about bringing people together in the idea that is "the promotion of the town, the economic development of the town, the use of the arts throughout the town." "This is a way to gather all the forces and have a unified vision," said Mary Ann Roehm, co-director of Arts Enter about the project.
"Cape Charles is part of the county, and it is going to be only to the benefit of the county if Cape Charles does well," Sheppard said about the request in the July 20 letter from Arts Enter to the Northampton County Board of Supervisors to support the project with $12,500 for each of the two years of the grant period. "We are hoping we might get that -- this money we have isn't enough." The letter to the county said their original grant request of the NEA had been for $75,000 as part of a $175,000 project budget, and the town of Cape Charles has committed $25,000 cash and $25,000 in-kind.
Arts and cultural destination
The project narrative includes a schedule for the creation of the Arts Conceptual Master Plan, design competition, and Harbor for the Arts Festival, which includes art engagement workshops and events during the grant period of September 2012 to August 2014. It said the Arts Plan will complement the Cape Charles Comprehensive Plan, Community Trail Master Plan and Harbor Master Plan. Planning ideas include a Strawberry Street Plaza and an Art Walk for the town. The final Arts Plan will be presented to the Cape Charles Town Council for adoption.
Organizers are currently working on a grant through the Virginia Commission for the Arts and Virginia Tourism Corp. to provide funding for the development of their website. "This design should be so brilliant that everybody can be part of it," Sheppard said about the website development.
"A central umbrella," Roehm said about the website. Mayer noted the marketing advantages of a website bringing people together around the same theme with links to each other.
"The unity makes the strength," Sheppard said of the project. "We want to generate that same kind of enthusiasm for Cape Charles on a more regular basis," said Roehm, referring to the recent Tall Ships festival in Cape Charles.
They said the project needs volunteers and other groups to become involved. "An historic play of the Eastern Shore," said Sheppard about the upcoming production of "Piece of Eden," an historic musical drama of the period of 1618-1776, which will take place at the Historic Palace Theatre from Nov. 15-20. Tickets and information available online, here.
She said they are hoping to have the town and businesses to join with festivities during the period of the play.
For information about the Harbor for the Arts project or how to become involved call Arts Enter at 757-331-2787, or visit www.artsentercapecharles.org