The fundraising campaign to renovate and name the art gallery on the campus of Johnston Community College in honor of the late artist Frank Creech is under way.
The Johnston Community College Foundation, the Johnston County Arts Council and the College’s art department are collaborating to raise $100,000 to remodel the 1,500-square-foot gallery and a 775-square-foot reception area. The gallery will be named after Creech, a Smithfield artist and sculptor and longtime instructor and chair of the art department at JCC.
Creech’s family said the art gallery project is a wonderful way to share his legacy. “Our family is honored to be a part of this project,” says Franklin Creech, Creech’s son. “The art gallery renovation is a fitting tribute to Dad. I know he would be very proud. This community meant so much to him and his artwork expressed how much he valued family and community.”
The groups are accepting private gift contributions to the Frank Creech Art Gallery and Visual Arts Fund at five different levels ranging from $500 to $10,000 and above. The first two major contributors to the project are Martha and Craig Casey of Princeton of Casey’s Floral and Catering Service at $5,000 and the Down to Earth Garden of Club of Smithfield, which has pledged $3,000 to be given over a three-year period.
In addition, the College Foundation has named Creech its Distinguished Citizen for 2008 and will honor his creative spirit and community contributions at a special event on Friday, March 7. The cost to attend the reception is $75 per person or $150 per couple. Revenues generated from the event will be directed to the fund to remodel the gallery.
Specifically, the money would pay for a museum-quality lighting system, a climate and humidity control system, an exhibit display and hanging system, a security system, and a reception area to celebrate art events and gallery openings.
John Byrd, head of the fine arts and graphic design programs at JCC, says the renovated gallery will serve as community-based gathering place for the arts. The gallery makeover will allow the College to showcase student art exhibits as well as a variety of work of major artists across the country.
“Our goal is to bring a higher level of visual art culture to the community,” Byrd says. “We want this to be our calling card. When people talk about the art department at JCC we want them to think about our gallery.”
Byrd says the department also hopes to employ JCC art students in a gallery apprenticeship program here at JCC as well as involve them in gallery-related activities such as judging, framing, hanging and publicizing art shows. And he also envisions a gift shop where local art can be sold.
“I think our programs are going to grow toward the fine art, fine craft areas that’s another reason the gallery is important,” Byrd says. “People need to be able to showcase their work here and we need people to see what we’re doing at the College.”
The College is home to Creech’s, “The Rescue,” a bronze statue which he created to show his appreciation for the support he received when his art studio burned in 1999. Creech was also commissioned for many public artwork projects which now grace the campuses of many universities including, Duke, Yale, and Penn State and the halls and walls of several museums across the United States.
In addition to his career as an artist, Creech was also an active leader in his church, First Baptist in Smithfield, and many community organizations such as the Johnston County Arts Council, the Smithfield Kiwanis Club, the Smithfield High School Alumni Association, and the Ava Gardner Museum. He was awarded the North Carolina Order of the Long Leaf Pine in 2005 for his outstanding civic service.
Donations for the art gallery renovation can be directed to the Frank Creech Art Gallery & Visual Arts Fund established with the College Foundation at P.O. Box 2350, Smithfield, NC 27577. For more information about the project or the Distinguished Citizen event, call Judy Miller at 919.209.2115.
Johnston Community College Fine Art and Graphic Design Dept., Smithfield, NC