By STEVEN NALLEY
Less than a week remains before the June 30 deadline to apply for arts grants from the Starkville Area Arts Council, grants which have supported events, dance, theatre, visual arts, music and more over the years.
Dylan Karges, SAAC president, said SAAC provided $40,000 in arts grants last year, supporting arts-based projects and other operations for organizations around the community. In its 17 years, Karges said, SAAC has grown to be able to provide larger amounts of funding, evolving from an organization focused on staging the Cotton District Arts Festival to a supporter of Starkville’s culture as a whole.
“In the last 10 years, for example, we have grown from an organization with an annual budget of around $20,000 to over $200,000,” Karges said. “This has provided us the opportunity to seek out new ways to support the community through grant programs, additional SAAC-sponsored programs like the Everything Garden Expo, now in its fourth year, and Art Partners, which we expanded greatly this year. The mission of the arts council has changed from its inception to match the current vision and possibilities in the community.”
Candy Crecink, SAAC executive director, said SAAC distributed a total of 23 art grants last year. She said the art grants were just one of the ways SAAC gives funding to those involved in the arts.
“Between the art grants, the education grants and the college and summer scholarships, this is one of the most fulfilling things we do,” Crecink said. “This is one of the primary reasons we exist. Our purpose is to bring the arts to the community, but also to ensure the future of the arts, and this definitely answers that goal.”
Applications are available online at http://www.starkvillearts.org  under the “Grants and Scholarships” heading. The announcement date for award winners has not been set in stone, Karges said, but it should be in mid-August or early September at latest.
Though limited to a budget, SAAC tries to fund every appropriate proposal it receives, Karges said, and projects are more likely to receive full funding if they engage the community directly, have high accessibility and are likely to make an impact that lasts.
“A project that impacts 300 students throughout the community will be more likely to be funded for the same cost as one that only impacts 20 from a less diverse group, so we encourage thought to be directed to maximize the impact of the projects, both in short and long-term,” Karges said. “Will the participants carry away from the projects a greater understanding of the arts? Will they actively participate and collaborate, building community bonds and friendships through the arts? Will there be public presentations that share the project beyond the primary participants?”
Donna Clevinger, a professor of theater at Mississippi State University, said art grants from SAAC were instrumental for “The Magic Flute,” a children’s opera produced in November which was the first joint effort between MSU’s departments of theatre and music.
“We were able to pay for additional costuming for additional sets,” Clevinger said. “Also, we sent out a study guide to our K-12 teachers to prepare students to see the production. We got a lot of mileage out of their support.”
Clevinger said she is applying for a grant for a similar program for children this fall. What she likes about SAAC, she said, is the value they place on applicants’ projects.
“They embrace individuals who apply and are interested in what the different groups in our region are doing,” Clevinger said. “There is nothing like getting a letter of congratulations. It’s like a nice pat on the back, saying, ‘What you are doing is special, and your group is special, and we want to be a part of that.’”