Apr 4, 201704:25 PMCity Beat
Handing Over the Tools
It’s difficult to imagine Roger Smith feeling bored. A woodworker and a writer, Smith had once owned a summer camp, holds a master’s degree in teaching history, and was formerly the executive director of a science museum. During his retirement, he plans to travel with his wife and pursue volunteer work; slowing down is not on his itinerary.
“I’ve got a three month old granddaughter, my first grandchild, and somebody’s gonna have to teach her how to wrestle. And I think that’s gonna be me,” says Smith.
Smith had been the executive director of the Perry County Council of the Arts (PCCA) for the past nine years, but on March 24, he passed the torch to Erika Juran. For Juran, accepting the position, which “marries the arts, support for the arts, and leadership,” was a “no-brainer.”
“But the thing that really attracted me, honestly, is the mission statement in building community because that’s what I’m about. We cannot exist in a vacuum and we need each other,” says Juran.
Juran, an artist with a professional background in corporate and non-profit management, sparkles with energy and a passion for her work. She, along with Smith, believes deeply in the PCCA’s mission statement — “to build community through the arts.”
Smith reflects upon his time at the PCCA, and is proud of his many accomplishments. He, along with PCCA staff, had made a “conscious effort to create very public art,” which includes the creation of the Quilt Barn Trail. The 8 feet by 8 feet painted quilts are mounted on the sides of barns, visible from highways in Perry and Juniata counties. He is also pleased with the four historical murals they created and he hopes for more on the way. Nevertheless, Smith is most proud of transforming the Landis House, located in Newport, into the PCCA’s “Creative Commons.”
“When we inherited the house there was a lot of deferred maintenance…The wallpaper was hanging down from the sides of the walls, the floors were beat up, um, the classroom that you walk by was just a beat up old garage,” says Smith. “Little by little in working through the recession, we now have built this place up.”
The Landis House is now a venue for concerts, classes, and exhibitions, and also offers overnight accommodations for visiting artists.
“And we are used by the community more than fifty percent of the days of the year, which is something that I’m very proud of,” says Smith.
Despite retiring from his position as an executive director, Smith still holds dreams for Newport and the community at large. He thinks back to the time he spent in Florence, Italy.
“…in that town, every nook and cranny has a piece of public art,” he says. “You’re wandering around and all of a sudden you see this amazing bronze that was created in 1490. And I don’t expect there to be bronzes on street corners in Newport, but I certainly would love to see some murals…I think art can change the character of a community…I think it can change how people perceive themselves and the place that they live. And I think it can change a community’s reputation. For the better.”
The PCCA offers plenty of opportunities for the community to get involved, from workshops to free concerts, and no age group is excluded.