Exhibits see new success at cultural center

Kylie Schepers/The Herald
Local artist Bill Whorrall's art will be on display at the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center for the months of April and May. Whorall is a retired art teacher who works with several kinds of media, from acrylic paintings to photographs to 3D sculptures.


JASPER — In the two months after the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center opened, the Jasper Community Arts side saw more than the Krempp Gallery, JCA’s old exhibit location, saw in almost the entire year of 2019.

“From the day we let people come in, which was Jan. 19, through March 31, we had nearly 3,500 people that we tracked that came into this side of the building,” Arts Director Kyle Rupert said. “And that’s with no receptions, no special activities, that’s just people coming through.”

Rupert and Visual Arts Coordinator Emily Colucci Peak agreed that they and the rest of the JCA staff are busier now at the Cultural Center than probably ever before.

“It has just been absolutely insane in the best possible way,” Rupert said.

With the Cultural Center setup, JCA can display much more than it ever could at its old location. There are currently four galleries — three in the exhibit halls and one in the atrium — on display.

Some exhibits that are possible now could never have been done at the old location, such as a floor-to-ceiling art installation by artist Kristina Arnold that will be displayed in June. Others technically could have been done in the old location but would have been more cramped, such as the exhibit displayed for Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April titled, “What Were You Wearing?”

Earlier in the year, artist Gerry Wubben had an exhibit displaying his 8-foot-tall realistic charcoal paintings. Rupert said it would have been hard to get the full experience at the JCA building.

“You really need to be able to step back and take it all in,” he said. “We really needed the space.”

At her job before the move to the Cultural Center, Peak wouldn’t usually have much more than a day to change out the exhibits — that includes packing, hanging and setting up the lights. Now, she typically has a week or longer, which Peak is thankful for, considering she has to reposition 119 lights in each exhibit space with every new gallery.

Rupert and Peak both said they have noticed a lot of new faces at the exhibits. Some amble over from the library with books in their hands. Others are visitors from out of town who have never even been to Jasper before.

When the center first opened, people called in from Ohio, Missouri, Tennessee and other states to see when they could visit.

Rupert said this is one of the best and most important aspects of the center: the ability to introduce visitors to the county.

“We hope that this facility, as it pertains to people coming from out of town, serves as that first focal point,” he said. “But then when they’re here, they discover the mill or the downtown shops or the Astra Theatre.”

Although there have been more visitors than ever, JCA is still not yet doing as much to attract patrons as they would without the pandemic. Rupert said he and the staff hope to soon bring back activities such as First Thursday Community Showcase and add new activities such as open art studios.

The space will also serve different purposes, such as a wedding reception venue, while still keeping the Jasper Arts Center open for performances.

Rupert said he is excited for all of the potential events and activities JCA can have now. The additional space and spotlight in the community allows them to execute the ideas they’ve always had.

“This is truly a visual representation of what we’ve always felt like or seen ourselves as,” he said.

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