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There’s need for culture

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By Carolyn Ten Broeck

 I hadn’t been in Williston long when I asked someone on the city’s CRA what Williston had chosen as its niche–the thing that would bring people here.

I was told it hadn’t been decided yet but the future revitalization of the city would spark an idea and the niche would evolve from that.

I thought that was a mistake. I still do.

Little towns across America are redefining themselves daily in order to stay vital.

Pendleton, S.C., a town of 2,900, is known for its antique shops and quaint eateries.

Hartwell, Ga., with 4,100 residents, has a thriving community theatre in what once was a cotton gin. It draws talent from six or seven counties around it. Beside it is ElsieBee’s, an art gallery/studio, where patrons can also learn to knit, crochet or other needlework. Up the street, on the city square is the Arts Center–dedicated to all the arts: music, art, theatre.

Closer by, Micanopy is renowned for its thrift and antique shops while Levy County’s own Cedar Key has reinvented itself as an art community. Need I mention that both these Florida towns have less than 800 population?

So what is Williston’s niche? What will encourage tourists to come here, spend time and money and then venture onward?

I don’t have the answer but I have ideas, as I am sure many of you do.

The problem is ideas without action is vain.

Bobby Hall, a self-taught artist, was visiting in my office a couple weeks ago. He told me that in the 18 months since I had profiled him in the newspaper, his art had evolved and every painting is better than the last.

I think it’s a shame that Bobby has to carry his works in his truck to showcase them to friends.

I told him so. Bobby agreed.

Williston needs an art gallery. Bobby and I agreed if there was a location, artists could man it on a volunteer basis a couple days of the week and especially the weekend.

Artists could sell their wares and commit 10 percent of the selling price back to an art co-op to help defray expenses. It would be a  perfect place to showcase all art media, including paints, stained glass, carving, sculpting, photography.

Start small and grow. It seems simple enough. The hardest part is finding that empty building and enough caring individuals who would support it, not just financially, but with sweat equity.

And that prompted the need for music.

Recently a free concert was held in the park. We need more of these events. We need more culture.

Who wouldn’t like to hear a jazz ensemble or a reggae band perform in a 90-minute concert in the park?

One town I lived in (population 2,100), held concerts in the park May through September the second Saturday evening of each month–five months, five different music genres so everyone got to hear something he liked.

It was so straight out of the Andy Griffin show that one couldn’t helped but be charmed. While the bands played (all gratis), some people danced while others enjoyed the cookies and lemonade that were sold.

Are Bobby and I dreaming? Is something of this caliber possible in Williston?

I would love to see our downtown area filled with charm–and people: people who visit, spend money and help our community flourish.

I’m interested to know what you think.

What is Williston’s niche? Can we work together to make dreams reality?