Rockford Area Arts Council holds open house

Director eager to 'support, promote, and develop the arts for everyone'

By Connie Kuntz
WNIJ News

ROCKFORD – The Rockford Area Arts Council (RAAC) held an open house at the Shumway Market on Thursday. They celebrated their new executive director, the newly retired Sharon Nesbit-Davis, and their home’s renovations.

Some of the renovations of their home at the Shumway Market include new furniture and a fresh display of art on loan from Rockford Art Museum. The art was created by local artists.

Mary McNamara Bernsten is the new executive director. She talked about her plans for the Council. “My immediate vision is to revive the mission statement which is ‘Support, promote and develop the arts for everyone.'” She added, “We are going to continue all of the wonderful programming and resources we provide.”

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That includes Spring ArtScene which runs April 17 and 18 throughout the Rockford region. ArtScene happens twice a year; once in the fall and once in the spring. It’s when hundreds of artists display their work in galleries throughout the Rockford region.

McNamara Bernsten said they are going to continue their summer art camps. She said, “We provide art camp for elementary age kids, middle school kids, and then high school kids.” The camps start in June.

Sharon Nesbit-Davis has been with the Council for decades in a variety of leadership roles and has seen the Council grow and provide what she says are opportunities for artists of all abilities. She said it feels wonderful to turn the reins over to a new director. “Mary McNamara Bernsten is the right person for this job. She’s doing fabulous work and I know that the Arts Council is in good hands and that wonderful things are going to happen.”

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Nesbit-Davis said that now she’s retired she’s going to write books, paint, and read. She added, “I plan to be out in the community and help other people find their creativity.”

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