Centre celebrates 10th
by Celia Shortt
(Editor’s Note: This story is the first in an occasional series, highlighting Coweta School System’s Centre for Performing and Visual Arts and the impact it has had for the last ten years.)
Ten years ago something new came to Coweta County and its school system, The Centre for Performing and Visual Arts. Today, the facility is a fixture in the community.
Located at 1523 Lower Fayetteville Road in Newnan, the Centre is the Coweta County School System’s premier arts facility and was constructed by the Coweta County Board of Education in 2004 through the community-supported Education Special Purpose Local Sales Tax (ESPLOST).
Donald W. Nixon is the director of the Centre and has been there from the beginning.
“The initial vision was to broaden the educational experience through the active presence of arts in daily living,” he said. “It’s very important that arts have a strong presence in the education structure of students.”
When a friend saw the project posted online near the end of 2002, he submitted Nixon’s resume. Nixon was one of the three candidates out of the initial 60 plus applicants to come to Coweta for an interview.
After getting the job, Nixon and his family moved to Newnan in February 2003, and the facility opened April 1, 2004.
Nixon’s vision was to allow the Centre to enhance, not replace, the existing arts foundation in the community.
“We started with important foundational work in place,” he said. “Our goal was to enrich, enhance, and expand their structures. We worked sensitively to not take away from existing programming but to build upon it and resource what they were already providing. Not to replace but to enrich the opportunities.”
In the last 10 years, the Centre, in conjunction with the Coweta community and school system, was able to achieve Nixon’s goal — bringing many different art and cultural activities to the area and enhancing those existing. The Centre’s activities range from art exhibits and local entertainment to national and international talent.
“What Nixon has done is remarkable,” said Coweta County Schools Superintendent Dr. Steve Barker. “He has brought people in from all over the world.”
Barker believes it is the commitment of Nixon, the school system, and the community to work together that has allowed the Centre to create a memorable impact on the community.
“It takes a dynamic leader and community support,” he said. “With Don Nixon, we are extremely fortunate. The fine arts, performing and visual arts have always been a priority in our community. The Centre has enabled us to take a long standing priority … and take it to the next step.”
Nixon was able to increase the impact of the Centre through its patrons. A non-profit organization, Patrons of the Centre was created to “broaden the cultural and artistic opportunities for Coweta County students and the surrounding community.”
“The Patrons of the Centre group has accelerated beyond the initial goal in an explosive way,” said Nixon. “We have accomplished so much because of the group’s determination. They, too, wanted greatness and set out to make it possible. The financial investment they have made available has inspired the grassroot movement that provided for the achievement of the school system and its leadership.”
“We have been successful because an entire community has invested,” he added.
In 2008, a group of patrons made an effort to purchase a work of art for the Centre’s permanent collection, in appreciation of Nixon. The response was so great that the group was officially retained and named to “sustain the public’s interest, enthusiasm, and commitment to the arts through the Centre.”
Another creation is Centre Strings, a student and community string orchestra “dedicated to musical and interpersonal excellence.” Centre Strings includes members ages 8 to 85 and welcomes anyone with two years of experience or more who want to play and/or rebuild musical skills.
Centre Strings is led by Dr. Lyn Schenbeck, a professional musician since the age of 13 who has taught music for more than 40 years. Currently, Schenbeck is an instructor at Coweta’s charter academy, Central Educational Center.
Nixon contacted Schenbeck as the Centre was being built, and he was turned down by the instructor six times before Schenbeck finally agreed. She, too, admires what he does for the community.
“Don is a great administrator,” Schenbeck said. “He knows how to get the funds he needs to do what he wants to do.”
With 10 years under the Centre’s belt, Nixon is committed to continue the facility’s tradition into the future.
“In ten years it seems our work has merely begun and this is a continual assignment,” Nixon said. “New people, new generations, new converts — it is our daily work to rally and teach the difference that exists between being good and being great.” “No one aspect of this story could have succeeded alone,” he added. “It does take a village to create the foundation work of greatness. Both the school system and the Patrons of the Centre, we feel we have begun the creation of a place beyond brick and mortar. Hopefully, we have offered a center for developing rich, well-rounded living for artistic ways of education. A center that teaches, exposes, explores, connects, and shapes greatness through diverse and exciting ways.”
In addition to serving Coweta students, the Centre’s core mission is to be “an extension of the classroom no matter the age of the student,” and the Centre’s staff and Patrons are presenting a full slate of performances for the Coweta community throughout their winter season.
The next performance is “Macbeth” by the National Players Extension on Thursday at 7 p.m.