“Visual and performing arts can work together to make Chester a wonderful art village,” said Marti Fann, president of the newly formed Chester Artists Association. Fann, a Matoaca resident, is displaying a portrait of her cat as part of a multi-artist show at the Chester Library this month.
Eight years ago, a foundation was formed to push for an arts center in Chester. Over the years, various programs to gain community interest and raise funds to support such a center have come and gone. One program to raise awareness for the Chesterfield Center for the Performing Arts Foundation that has been continuous is regular art exhibits featuring local artists at the Chester Library.
The number of artists that have showcased their work over the years has grown, and artist Richard Leslie, who sits on the foundation board, stressed the need for an artists’ association in Chester. Organized in September 2009, the Chester Artists Association was officially recognized as a committee of the foundation last Saturday with a reception and art show of its members at the Chester Library.
Fann served as president of the Bon Air Artists Association for two years and chairwoman of their Arts on the Lawn show for five years. “During that time I learned a lot about how a successful organization should be run,” she said.
The association held its first meeting in October with 10 members and has had members joining every month. “We now have 25 members and growing. I believe artists benefit when they get together and share information,” Fann said.
Many of its members have studios in their homes, and a few rent studios for their work and the ability to teach classes. The artists association gives its members the opportunity to attend programs and trips, enhance their artistic learning and provide social time. According to its Web site, the artists association is a social club that meets once a month on the fourth Friday at the Chester Library; each meeting, it has an artistic presenter. The club does not meet in July or August and has a luncheon for its June and December meetings.
As a committee of the Chesterfield Center for the Arts Foundation, the association receives benefits of the foundation’s tax-free status. “Having a wonderful group of artists that get together, create and have fun is delightful,” said Betty Matthews, chairwoman of the Chesterfield Center for the Arts Foundation. “It gives us an opportunity to really have more creative energy from them and enjoy their expansion.”
The proposed art center in the Village Green is referred to as the Chester Library Community Arts Center in the county’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP). The center will include a theater, meeting rooms and display areas for library and community programs. Programming would include children’s programs; lectures and symposia; government, business and community meetings; and musical and theatrical presentation.
The county has allocated a total of $6,899,800 as challenge grant dollars to be used as matching funds for resources raised by the community. The county’s portion of design funds are available and preliminary design work has started, with completion scheduled in FY2012. Construction is scheduled for completion in FY2014.
“The foundation will have to raise at least $1 million so the $6.9 million from the  bond referendum can start and be used to build the building easily by 2014,” Mathews said. “If we can raise it sooner than that – who knows. It depends upon so many things of this terrible economy we are going through right now and we will come out and we will finally have an arts center in Chesterfield. It is time. It is a matter of not just existing, but it is having a quality of life, and that is essential to who we are and gives us a reason for really getting up in the morning and going to work and having something that gives us a reason for enjoying and having a passion for something. We all have creativity and we need a place to expand and express and enjoy.”
The Chester Artists Association is considering showcasing its member’s work at local events and festivals. It will have a 10-artist exhibit at the Celebration of the Vine Wine Festival, presented by the Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce, on April 17 and its artists are considering exhibiting as a group at this year’s Chesterfest.
To become a member, annual dues are $30, with half the dues contributed to the Chesterfield Center for the Arts Foundation. For more information, contact President Marti Fann at firstname.lastname@example.org  or 590-9583.