Arts center enriches Oxford with history, events and opportunities
Published: Monday, April 2, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 3, 2012 00:04
The Oxford Community Arts Center is a place community members use for enjoyment and an institution with a charming history dating almost as far back as Miami University itself.
Spencer Mapes, administrative assistant of the arts center, said, “The actual building of the current Oxford Community Arts Center building was built in 1849. It was not originally built as an arts center; it was actually a women’s college and the dorm was all part of Miami. Once Miami grew into a bigger campus they no longer needed it so they didn’t rent it out as dorms and then it kind of fell apart.”
According to Mapes, the building originally served as The Oxford Female Institute until Miami no longer needed the building. Then in 1998 the Oxford Community Arts Group formed and took over the building. It now serves as the community arts center, a place where citizens of all types take classes, show work and visit galleries and exhibitions, among other things. Miami still leases the building but the employees at the arts center are responsible for the building.
According to Mapes, the center provides a variety of art for community members.
“We have a monthly exhibit that changes each month,” he said. “We have a gallery, a ballroom and throughout the building there is art. There is always art on the walls and in the parlors and galleries that changes monthly.”
Rebekah Powers, portrait artist and yoga teacher at the arts center, has been a longtime resident of Oxford and said she believes the arts center is an incredible asset to the town.
“I used to work in Hawaii as a portrait artist,” Powers said. “I do quick sketches and I love to do events; I have an upcoming one at Hueston Woods. I tutor a child right now and I made that connection through the arts center. I wouldn’t have been able to move back from Hawaii if it wasn’t for the community arts center; I wouldn’t have been able to support myself.”
Powers used to have a studio on the third floor of the arts center and has paintings on exhibit throughout the center. She also teaches an hour-long yoga class 10:30 a.m. Saturday and Monday. The class is welcome to all levels of yoga with a $10 fee and is based on a drop-in basis.
“As a townsperson for 30 years I’ve seen the center go through transitions,” Powers said. “I can’t say enough about what I think the arts center does to create community. It’s like a magnet. This is a great town, it’s an energy core and being with the arts center is just a win-win situation for everyone.”
The center also holds more specialized events.
“Once a month we have what we call ‘Second Friday’ where we have an opening for the new gallery with the new art exhibits,” Mapes said. “The art is created by both local and out-of-town artists. It’s great for the community and it’s free for everyone. We have appetizers and things like that. It’s for all ages and we have live performances that night too.”
Art classes are available for both children and adults.
“Throughout the season we have children’s programs and after school art programs for kids,” Mapes said. “We have classes for kids from elementary schools like Talawanda where they come in on buses and our teachers teach kids for an hour and a half every Tuesday and Thursday. We also have adult classes, like life drawing classes, where people can come in and draw models.”
Along with bringing the Oxford community together through art, Mapes said history is another thing the center works diligently to preserve.
“One thing we take pride in is maintaining our history … we don’t want to renovate or keep too up-to-date because we want that history and heritage,” Mapes said. “So like on the third floor we have the old original dorm rooms that were renovated and turned into art studios. We rent all of the rooms out to local artists and they are constantly filled up and in demand.”
Accoring to Mapes, many of those artists also offer classes such as watercolor classes or still life drawing classes. The artists that rent out the studios on the third floor teach many of the adult and children’s classes.
Mapes said the center also interacts with the university and hopes to create even more interactions between the arts center and Miami students in the future.
“And we do occasionally do things with Miami as well like last week we had an exhibit for art education majors where they came in and got their own exhibits with their own artwork,” Mapes said. “We also have ballroom dancing too and lots of Miami students come and do that who take the ballroom dancing class. We definitely are working on reaching out to students more as we grow and stuff like that..”
Miami senior and President of Stage Left Kendall Persons said the center has been wonderful to work with.
“We do a musical each semester and two years ago, the 2009 and 2010 shows, we put on at the Oxford Community Arts Center … I was also there a lot last semester because they opened up some space for us to do set construction for our shows,” he said. “It was too cold to build the set outside so I talked to them and they opened up theater space and let us use space to build sets to show our shows. It worked well, they are very good with open communication and they are always great to work with; they’re very flexible.”