Giving Back: Arts find strength, team locally

Published 1:05 pm Wednesday, March 4, 2015

LAPLACE — As a teacher and artist, Kristie Gough has spent 25 years heavily invested in the River Parishes arts community.

Her passion is obvious, and she adds it is just as obvious successful arts programs and efforts enhance local society.

Gough, the president of the River Region Arts & Humanities Council, recently helped announce the group’s 2015 grant funding to several River Region organizations.

Harold Flynn Jr. and Sharon Kell, representing the RRAHC 2015 Grants Committee, presented 32 grants or sponsorships totaling $23,337 during their February meeting.

“What most people don’t realize is how everyone is affected on a regular basis by some form of art, such as music, visual and performance art,” Gough said. “The arts need to be supported, and the River Region Arts and Humanities Council does just that. The organization works hard to be sure that the arts have a voice and the means to grow in the River Parishes, which ultimately affects other communities. “The Council has been able to award many grants through fundraisers and donations, which help support the local community’s arts programs.”

Gough, who multitasks as a Hahnville High School talented art educator and St. Charles Parish coordinator of the visual arts, said the Arts & Humanities Council is steadily growing in membership and support from local communities.

The wide variety of members and their talents are a great asset to the Council, she said.

Council leaders say the group serves as an umbrella organization to enrich the quality of life within the region through the promotion of the arts and humanities, the preservation and enhancement of local culture and the support of art education through fundraising and program development in the River Region.

Since 2000, organizers have raised more than $370,000 toward this cause.

The list of groups and organizations that benefited this year in St. John the Baptist Parish include St. Joan of Arc Catholic School, Riverside Academy, San Francisco Plantation Foundation, Ascension of Our Lord School, St. Timothy’s Episcopal School, St. Charles Catholic High School, St. Peter Catholic School, St. John Parish Library, St. John Theatre and Garyville Timber Museum Association.

Mona Roussel, development director with St. Joan of Arc, said without the continued support of the Council, St. Joan of Arc would have a difficult time providing the experience Missoula Children’s Theatre offers its students.

“Those children who participate in the production are given the opportunity to showcase their talents through live theater,” she said. “The annual productions enhance our arts education in an environment that fosters strong group dynamics while allowing each student to excel as an individual.”

She said if the opportunity was not offered at school free of charge — thanks in part to Council grants — many students would not realize the talents they possess.

“Exposure to the arts in various forms enhances the community by providing cultural experiences for people of all ages and economic backgrounds,” Roussel said.

Gough said many times art programs are the first to be impacted by budget cuts and the economy, so the Council provides the means back to these programs to be successful in enriching local children and communities.

Council Vice President Aspen Steib said RRAHC is one of the most important organizations supporting the arts in the River Parishes.

“The organization has supported everything from school plays to parish-wide festivals, and that kind of support is priceless,” she said.