by Scott Campbell
As the metropolitan capital region expanded in the 1960s, rural northern York County was eyed by home builders and developers. The sleepy borough of Dillsburg, already by-passed by U.S. Route 15 on its way to Gettysburg and points south, was destined to become the beneficiary of this growth.
Enrollment in the Northern York School District, headquartered in Dillsburg, grew exponentially over the ensuing decades. Along with it came exemplary visual arts and music curricula, which are now reflected in the Dillsburg Arts and Revitalization Council (DARC), an organization whose purpose is to, among others, nurture the creative spirit of Dillsburg-area youth and adults through programs, concerts and community events.
One of those community events, the council’s most ambitious to date, is scheduled for Sunday, August 14. Dubbed “Arts in the Alley,” it is advertised as a “free family arts experience” and will be in place from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on E. Church Street behind the Dillsburg Post Office.
Planned activities include:
• Lara Vracarich (dance therapist), who will be conducting a drumming/rhythm workshop.
• Michael Peluso (local glass artist), who will demonstrate glass blowing and involve the participants in the process.
• Jason Reed (dance instructor from the Cultural Alliance of York County), who will lead interested children and adults in various forms of dance. Reed has served as the artist-in-residence for Northern York schools during the past school year.
• Other visual-arts activities will include print-making with natural materials, Zentangles, paper making and much more.
This inaugural event serves to fulfill in part another of the arts council’s mission statements: To implement an arts initiative that supports local artists, enhances the local economy and facilitates art-education opportunities, which bring vitality and prestige to the Dillsburg area.
An additional objective of the council is to serve in partnership with community-based entities – the Dillsburg Area Public Library, Northern York County Historical & Preservation Society, Dillsburg Borough Council, Northern York School District and others.
In place August 8 through 11, an art camp for students in kindergarten through seventh grade precedes “Arts in the Alley.” Ongoing adult classes are the Writer’s Workshop (third Tuesday of each month, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.) and the Free Spirit Watercolor classes (Mondays 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.).
Ground zero for the council is the historic Monaghan Church, situated in the heart of Dillsburg at 15 E. Church Street. The council holds regular business meetings in its basement. However, it is the sanctuary’s excellent acoustics that make it a fitting venue for the organization’s slate of musical programs. A Scottish music concert is scheduled for November 13, and the Christmas season is celebrated with a candlelight service on December 10.
Some previous concerts at the church have featured John Eaken and Friends, the Pennsylvania Woodwind Quintet, Dillsburg Brass, Harrisburg Mandolin Quintet, Irish Rovers, Northern String Quartet, Polar Bear Singers, show tunes by Carol Knisley, an “Old-Tyme” hymn sing and the Susquehanna Travellers performances of Irish music and that from the Civil-War period.
The arts council was officially founded in October 2014.
“We started in 1998 as the Dillsburg Revitalization Committee,” says President Jay Young. “Then we worked for several years with The Foundation for Enhancing Communities to share the benefits of being a 501-3-C organization prior to forming our current group.”
“So many small towns are having problems, many caused by absentee landlords and the bedroom-community connotation that brings about complacency,” says Young. “When the committee was created, we immediately formed a bond between all the service organizations in Dillsburg and also the borough council. This partnership made a big difference in our ability to succeed, spread the word and gain community support.”
Young continues, “We have written grants exceeding $250,000 for the town, plus additional grants for our own projects, and now are working to establish the historic Monaghan Church as an anchor location for the community.”
Young has been instrumental in the arts council’s rapid ascendency. But his contributions are complemented by the other council officers and staff. They are Treasurer/Vice-President Ron Wenger; nonprofit consultant Melinda Shultz; Arts Group facilitators Donna Barlup and Pam Wenger; Mark Hagenbuch, board member of the Northern York County Historical & Preservation Society; Monaghan Presbyterian Church Session Members Brad Hakes and Dave Krall; Engineer Bruce Juergens; and Megan Hakes, community consultant.
For more information, visit dillsburgarts.org.