The need for an art guild in North Port was discussed at an initial planning meeting held on November 1st, 1988. Those attending that meeting were: Mayor Frank Coulter, Wally Lindaman, Executive Director of North Port Chamber of Commerce, Janis Goodcuff, Betty Kinahan, Charlotte Mosel And Eleanor Touhey. A charter organizational meeting was held on November 15th and local artists were invited to attend. This small, dedicated group of residents met on Nov.29th, 1988 to formally adopt the name “North Port Area Art Guild” and discuss bylaws. “Art Guild progresses Past Drawing Board,” read the headlines in the local newspaper. The first officers were: Charlotte Mosel, President; Janis Goodcuff, Treasurer and Mayor Frank Coulter, Secretary. On that day, Mr. Coulter stated their early vision: “Some of our goals will be to share ideas, promote shows and just have good fellowship with people who share a mutual interest. We are concentrating on the visual arts. Our long-range goal is to become the focal point for all cultural activities in North Port”.
The initial Officers signed the Articles of Incorporation of North Port Area Art Guild, Inc., a Florida Corporation Not for Profit, in March 1989. The NPAAG (North Port Area Art Guild) held annual arts and crafts shows, and had artist demonstrations at monthly meetings. The Guild grew to 40 members. Annual dues were $20. In 1995, membership dropped to 16 and they disbanded. The group voted to place NPAAG on temporary “inactive status”, until further interest was established. The non-profit corporation and funds were maintained by Janis Goodcuff, during this hiatus.
In August 1998, a group of artists held a meeting to re-establish the Art Guild. Monthly meetings were held to re-organize, create goals and promote interest within the community. On October 19, 1998, a Board of Directors was formed and officers were elected. NPAAG was re-activated! Initial goals included: attracting a youth membership (as well as adults), sponsoring children’s art activities, building an art center in North Port and getting community support. The new Officers were: Wayne Slabaugh, President; Catherine Beausoleil, Vice-Pres.; Laurie Coe, Secretary and Carol Neagles, Treasurer. The group met monthly at the library and invited the public to attend. Membership grew. Within a year, the Guild held it’s first classy art gala, became involved in community events and started talking with North Port government officials about the need for a local art center. Starting in 2000, free monthly children’s art classes were held in North Port and continues today.
Under the leadership of Allen Salo, 2001- 03 President, a concerted effort was made to acquire land for our proposed art center. Architectural plans, costs and renderings were produced. At the May 29th, 2001 North Port City Commission meeting, a resolution was passed to present land to NPAAG for a building site.
Resolution #01-R-32, designation of City Center Complex land for a Fine Arts Center, stipulated that the art center must be built and a lease agreement be completed by June 5, 2004. The one-acre site is located between the George Mullen Activity Center and the new North Port City Hall. Since this resolution passed, NPAAG has been actively fund raising for a building. We received a grant in 2001 to hire a professional marketing research company. A survey was performed in the North Port area to determine the need and support of an art center. The resulting research proved that North Port area residents want an art center and would support it.
Throughout the next few years, the Guild was very active in the community and membership grew steadily. The Board of Directors and general membership has continued to meet monthly. Guest artists programs are presented. Some of the NPAAG’s activities were: art-in-public places (such as local banks, North Port Library & Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice), annual arts and crafts shows, gala events, free children’s art classes, Art Center Building fund, scholarship fund, Adopt-a-Street, Adopt-a-Shelf and participating in community events.
Under the leadership of 2003-04 President, Doris Doersam, the Art Guild acquired several grants for projects and children’s art programs. Community awareness of the Art Guild and its goal of providing an art center are growing. The art center was not built by June 5, 2004, as stipulated in the 2001 resolution. The North Port City Commission voted on May 24, 2004 to extend the original land-lease offer until 2007. The Guild continued it’s fund raising efforts. They created and produced a 2005 Art Calendar, greeting cards and fine art prints, featuring the work of twelve local artists. Profits from the sale of these items benefited the Building Fund. 2005 President Lelija Roy was our next strong leader to carry the torch and continue our missions.
The dynamic duo of Joan Overholser and Carolyn Machado, 2006 Co-Presidents, accomplished great strides in reaching our goal of getting an art center. The Guild continued all it’s meetings, programs, children’s art classes, fund raising efforts, scholarships, art shows and gala events. At this time, Board members started meeting with North Port City Officials, to discuss the possibility of leasing one of the soon-to-be-vacated buildings in the old City Hall campus. The City Commission voted to establish a lease agreement, with North Port Area Art Guild, for the old Planning And Zoning Building. On May 6, 2007, we had the keys! Under the dynamic leadership of Stephen and Jayne Etter, 2007-08 Co-Presidents, the building was completely renovated to house a fine, visual arts center. The City of North Port helped with the renovations; as well as grants from the Selby Foundation and Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice.
The Art Center Building Fund was used to floor, furnish, supply and equip classrooms, galleries and other rooms in the building. Operating funds are continually needed. Dedicated volunteers make the Art Center’s operation possible. North Port Area Art Guild is now “doing business as” North Port Art Center. The doors were open to the public in June 2007, offering summer art classes to all ages. In the Fall, a full class schedule was available to the public, in a wide variety of mediums. NPAC is also responsible for exhibiting quality art shows in the lobby gallery areas of North Port City Hall, for the public to enjoy.
The Grand Opening Celebration and ribbon cutting ceremony was held on September 8, 2007. It was well attended by the community and City Officials. Adult and youth classes are offered. Member artists can exhibit their work in the gallery, “Artisans Port” gift shop and on the NPAC website. Programs and events are continuously being planned for the community, to serve as fundraisers, as well as cultural enjoyment for all. The public is invited to visit the art center and participate in various classes, workshops, activities and events. A donation program has been established, to help us serve the community as it’s Art Center. Some of the needs include: staffing, teaching equipment, art supplies, a pottery kiln building, a portable classroom, storage building, landscaping and promotional materials. 2008 ushered in talented new art instructors, classes, fabulous art shows and fine art events. The community realized another cultural activity to enjoy.
Eileen Nail was the 2009 President. She chaired many successful fundraising events. Membership grew to over 300.. Carol Neagles a board member, officer and volunteer of NPAAG for many years, was named the center’s first director in 2009, serving until 2012. Our current Art Director is Sandi Hilliard, an oil painting instructor and a former board member.
Louise Hall was our 2010-11 President. Under her leadership, the NPAC expansion project has become a reality. Louise is responsible for acquiring the grants that make it possible for the Art Center to operate. The City of North Port provided a large portable for us to use as additional classrooms. We added pottery & sculpture classes for adults & youth, to our wide variety of class & workshop offerings. She and Carol Neagles were instrumental in securing the funding, donations, volunteerism & teaching staff for our new “Clay Art and Sculpture Studio” building.
Mary Asplaugh is our 2012 President of The Board, and serves as our newsletter editor and chair of the Fundraising Committee, overseeing NPAC’s 25th Anniversary Celebration in 2013.
The organization continues its membership drive to encourage area artists, craftsmen and all those who enjoy the arts to join. NPAC is a “Jewel in the Crown that is North Port”!