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FRIDAY, MAY 11, 2007
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Younger generation of art enthusiasts on board of council

By Danielle Komis
dkomis@decaturdaily.com 340-2447

The downtown mural project, headed by co-presidents Tracey Sykes and Luke Hamilton, is the first large-scale project the council has embarked on with its new board of directors, most of whom are in their 20s.

When Sykes came to Laura Phillips, a former president of the arts council, for help with the mural project, Phillips saw her enthusiasm and said it made sense to "pass on the reins" of the arts council to a new generation of enthusiasts.

The Decatur Arts Council started in the early 1970s and has completed many community projects in the city during its long tenure.

The council once made all the programs for the events at Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts before the theater began printing its own, provided equipment for local performing arts groups, and spearheaded the effort to convert the Carnegie from a library into a visual arts center in the 1990s.

The council's purpose has always been to promote new projects and give them life, and this energetic group of young people has the drive to continue on the tradition, said Phillips, director of Carnegie Visual Arts Center. The group painted the sets for the Decatur Civic Chorus' version of the "Music Man" and helped record a Red Cross disaster awareness film for area schools.

Phillips serves as an adviser for the new board of directors for the council, as a way of easing the turnover "so that these young people have a chance to do the hard work that those of us a generation ago have already done."

Scott Willis, co-owner of Willis Gray Gallery in Decatur and a former member of the art council board of directors, said he is happy to see the enthusiastic group heading the council.

"I'm just glad they're trying to breathe new life into it," he said. "There needs to be a voice for the arts community because it's so fragmented."

And even after the first round of the Decatur Mural Project is over, Phillips is confident their leadership will carry into other projects that will benefit the community.

"This is not their sole focus," she said. "They're not just going to fade away. They understand the importance of adding people who have interest in the arts to their group."

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