CHATSWORTH — Maison McGill says she has always had a passion for singing.
The 12-year-old student at Chatsworth Elementary School said she started singing early in life and wants to continue to improve her voice and technique.
So she turned to Bruce West, one of the music teachers at the Murray Arts Council on Market Street in Chatsworth. The council is a nonprofit dedicated to promoting and supporting the arts in the county. It offers music lessons in a variety of disciplines for all ages.
“His style makes you feel very confident,” Maison said of West, who teaches voice and guitar. “He helps you get your voice under control and helps you with power.”
Maison began voice lessons with West in September, and her mom, Denise McGill, says there has been a noticeable improvement.
“She gets a lot out of her lessons,” McGill said. “Her control and her vocal technique have improved.”
McGill is impressed with the council’s classes, and says both teachers — West and Jennifer Jones — treat their students like family.
That’s because West and Jones strive to enhance the lives of people in the community through art, they say.
“Arts are so important all around — so kids will be well-rounded,” said Jones, who teaches piano, woodwind and voice lessons. “Art is so important to our community.”
Music classes are not limited to children. They are open to adults as well. In addition to private lessons, Jones, who has a degree in music education, says she can offer group preschool music classes if there are enough people interested.
Jones said she wants people to be able to sing, whether it’s a parent singing their child to sleep or someone wanting to participate in their church’s choir.
But the council provides more than music classes.
Council members have begun to plan more activities and classes for the community, including art shows, gallery displays, yoga classes, song writing workshops and theatrical workshops. The council also offers space for visual artists to rent who want to teach classes.
The council formed in June of last year, but only acquired a building in February. It is run by a 10-member board of directors, who are art-minded and have an interest in increasing the presence of arts in the community, said Dave Robinson, board president.
“It’s essential to us economically to have arts in the community if we want to thrive and grow,” Robinson said. “When you have a depressed economy, art takes a back seat.”
Sole Commissioner Brittany Pittman said the council fills an area that has been lacking in the community and brings “cultural flavor” and “diversity to our community.” She has helped the council apply for and receive grants and helped arrange for volunteers to help repaint and replace the carpet in part of the building.
“This program gives children and adults alike an opportunity to learn by way of participating in classes or to enhance their experience in local productions and events,” Pittman said. “We hope to grow and expand these activities in our community going forward.”
Robinson said expanding activities takes money. As a newly formed nonprofit, the council is beginning to really focus on how to raise funds. Since the council did not at first have a building, Robinson said members were not focused on a campaign drive, but will probably turn their attention there in the near future.
Robinson said he hopes the council will eventually be able to provide financial backing for arts in the county. For example, if a group wanted to do a drama production, the council would provide funds needed to make the production happen.
“That’s why we’re so desperately needing support,” he said. “We need corporate sponsors.”
Currently Shaw, Petty Farms and Peach Realty contribute to the council.
The council is open for anyone to join. There are different levels of membership ranging from $10 for a student to $500 for individuals and from $250 to $5,000 for businesses. More information is on the council’s website, murray-arts.com.
Beginning Saturday, one artist will be showcased each month at the council’s Gallery 121, located at 121 Market St., in what’s called the Murray Art Showcase.
The last Saturday of each month a different artist from the northwest Georgia area will be featured in the space, and that person’s work will hang in the gallery for a month for the community to see.
The first artist to be featured is Chatsworth native Michael Thompson, who runs the website tvpainter.com. The opening will be Saturday at 7 p.m.
In April, artwork from North Murray High School students will be displayed. In May, artwork from Murray County High School students will be on display. There are plans to feature an artist who does black and white photography and an artist who does batiks this summer.
The gallery is open anytime the Backstage Coffee Shop and Deli is open; Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Saturday the hours vary depending on activities at the council. The coffee shop, owned by West, rents space from the council and partners with the council.
There is also gallery space in the coffee shop, which currently features three artists’ works.
On May 17 there will be a pig roast and hoe down fundraiser. In the fall there will be an “art crawl” where art will be displayed in people’s homes for a public tour.