Culture -- and the arts -- have been an important part of McCook life since the earliest years of the community's existence. When reading through "Portraits of the Past: McCook's First 100 Years," we discover that McCook's pioneers started an opera house, a light guard band and open air concerts within two years of the city's founding in 1882.
One hundred and twenty-two years later, in the Spring of 2004, we're happy to report that this cultural spirit still burns brightly in the community. Through the efforts of Floyd Hershberger 11 years ago, the community now has a strong, vibrant sponsoring organization known as the McCook Arts Council.
This is an "umbrella" organization, so-called because it helps provide financial and promotional support for a number of McCook's cultural arts endeavors, including the McCook Concert Association, the Southwest Nebraska Community Theater Association, the Community Chorus, the McCook Art Guild and the Buffalo Commons Storytelling Festival.
But that's not all. The McCook Arts Council, M.A.C. for short, is also the funding source for the Artists in Residence program for McCook's public and parochial schools, and is there to assist when cultural arts opportunities arise. An example of this assistance would be the Missoula Children's Theater, which is scheduled for a return performance in McCook in August.
We're bringing all this up because now's the time for citizens of the McCook area to step forward with their support of the cultural arts. Throughout March and April, the McCook Arts Council is conducting its annual fund drive, with a goal of raising $10,000 to support the arts during the coming year.
Whether you can give $10, or $1,000, your gifts will be greatly appreciated. "One of the most important things we do is expose children to the arts," said Nancy Mousel, the fund drive chair. "This is especially needed now because of the cutbacks made in the elementary art program," she said.
In recent times, the McCook Art Guild's contributions have allowed the school to bring Sondra Jonson to North Ward, Julia Noyes to Central Elementary, Howard Kaye to St. Patrick' School and Jonathan Wilson to McCook High School. And the arts council also provides scholarships for youth to attend the McCook Art Guild's summer workshops.
Located as McCook is -- four to five hours from Denver, Lincoln and Omaha -- it's important to invest in the community's cultural life. Let's do our part by sending gifts of $10 or more to the McCook Arts Council, P.O. Box 966, McCook, NE 69001. By doing so, we will give an essential uplift to the arts in this area.
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