In addition to the relationship between the City of Smithville and the LPAA, other community organizations partner in a wide variety of cultural activities.
• Business / Building Owners
In early 2014, building owners along Main Street with empty storefronts allowed artists with the LPAA to depict silhouette portraits of people doing business in those spaces. LPAA also works with local businesses through the Smithville Mural Program. Weatherworn murals are refurbished and new murals are conceptualized and painted. Interior murals have been painted at the Post Office, at a local bank, and in a church. Murals painted in cooperation with local businesses and City Departments include the Mule Team by Bobby Jo Carter at the Hurta Estate Offices (formerly Billy Dee’s automotive) on Loop 230, and on the Historic Volunteer Fire Department by Jo Watts at the Smithville Police Department (which was once used as the Volunteer Fire Department).
The City of Smithville and the LPAA have worked together with the Chamber of Commerce on many programs, among them: the Texas Photo Festival, the Festival of Lights, “Art on a Stick” and other signage, and the National Endowment for the Arts “Arts Bridging Community” program. The LPAA provides artists for arts and crafts booths to keep children entertained during local festivals. The City provides space at City Hall and the Recreation Center for many Chamber activities. The Chamber’s participation was also key to make the Silhouette program a success.
A committee under the Smithville Chamber, Keep Smithville Beautiful (KSB) has also participated in many of the Cultural District projects, including Sculpture on Main (a program that was initially supported in part through a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts), the Youth Banner Program (see SEF below for more details), and a wide variety of beautification projects along Main Street and throughout Smithville.
• Spoken Word
Sam Blasco established the Spoken Word group in 2009 for local writers to meet monthly to read their poetry and prose to an audience. They have worked with the Smithville Public Library creating special events to raise funds for library programs. Spoken Word hosted a fundraiser for the Library called “Day with St. Valentine” in February 2014, and in 2015, they organized “Spoken Word Meets StoryCorps” to show people what happens during an interview to help develop interest in the “StoryCorps @ Your Library” program. They have also held “Writers Talk About Writing” events to encourage novice writers in their efforts to become published. For many years, Spoken Word was held at Samantics Squared at 206 Main Street. Currently, it is often held at the Mary Nichols Art Center.
The local education foundation, SEF has worked with LPAA to bring “Enrichment Days” to the Mary A. Brown Primary School, which serves Pre-K through 2nd grade in Smithville. This program adds an opportunity to learn arts-related skills and competencies to the curriculum. When state testing requirements and constraints on school budgets at the Primary School forced the administration to eliminate their arts program, this program was designed to fill the void. SEF, LPAA, Playhouse Smithville, and Mary A. Brown Primary School now work together to provide the innovative “Brown Primary Enrichment Days” program. Enrichment Days are coordinated to use required SISD administrative workdays to bring in visual and performing artists to teach these creative skills. This program allows SISD to save the funds it would otherwise need to spend on substitute teachers while providing the students with an amazing opportunity for hands-on, creative learning. Through Enrichment Days, kindergarten, first, and second grade students gain exposure to the arts to develop their understanding of color, form, music and spatial relationships. SEF provides the funding for the instructors and the supplies. Brown Primary arranges the schedule to ensure that all students in these three grades have the opportunity to participate. Playhouse Smithville artistic and music directors give students rudimentary and fun lessons in acting, and Music Theater. Students truly love this opportunity to be creative.
In 2016 and again in 2018, the Smithville Cultural District was awarded funds from the Texas Commission on the Arts to support the Enrichment Days program and to create banners that will fly along Main Street and MLK, Jr. Drive. The Cultural District, Lost Pines Artisans’ Alliance, Smithville Education Foundation, and Keep Smithville Beautiful provided the matching funds needed to complete the program. We are extremely grateful for this collaboration and for the beautiful new banners, which showcase our very young students’ artwork and show off the community’s talents.
• LPAA Gallery on Main
The LPAA partnered with Samantics Squared at 206 Main Street to curate the 1,000 square-foot gallery space to display local artists’ work. It had a “soft opening” in September, 2014 with paintings by young local artists and a “Grand Opening” in conjunction with the Chamber’s Texas Photo Festival in October, 2014; the show included photographic works by local artists. Over 100 people attended each opening. The gallery changes show three to four times per year, often to correspond with a theme related to a particular Chamber event — for example, the Show Theme beginning in September, 2018 was “Chickens” featured in conjunction with the Chamber’s first “Smithville WingFest“ that year.
Since 2011, these organizations have collaborated with LPAA to bring awareness to our community about issues of hunger and the importance of a healthy diet through the Smithville Empty Bowl Project. SISD is another partner in the Empty Bowl project, working to create bowls through the Junior and Senior High School art classes under the supervision of the art teachers and LPAA clay artists. Community response has been tremendous and grows every year. LPAA artists paint bowls and platters for sponsors (like the one Jo Watts painted, on right).
Students at the Smithville Independent School District contribute greatly to the Cultural District. For example, art class students, After School Program students, and Enrichment Days students participate through the Lions Club Peace Poster contest, Eco Fest (formerly Green Expo) Art Poster Contest, the Youth Banners on Main program, the Empty Bowl project, the Book Trailer program with the Smithville Public Library. For several years, the Library has also helped coordinate the “Night of the Arts” programming, which focuses on the artistic abilities of our students, and also features scholars or working artists who can talk with students about what life after High School can be for students who are interested in the Humanities and the Arts. The Junior High Art Teacher and the Parent and Community Liaison at SISD have been instrumental in making this program a success, and it points to another partnership that helps students learn how to express themselves through art.
Playhouse Smithville is a fantastic partner with the Cultural District, bringing live entertainment to the community each season, providing a safe space for local actors and kids who like to be on stage to practice their craft. Playhouse Smithville has worked with the Smithville Public Library to bring theater to students and their families through programming like the Little Prince adaptation for the PBS Great American Read program and the “chapter plays” john daniels, jr. (sic) writes and directs for the “Reading Raiders of Exciting Writing!” program during the Library’s Summer Reading Club, among many other fantastic projects. Playhouse Smithville is also one of the main creative entities that uses the Mary Nichols’ Art Center to give music lessons and for overflow rehearsal space.
The Smithville Noon Lions Club has supported this community for decades through scholarship programs, by recognizing students and teachers, by allocating funds to a number of important community programs such as the Smithville Empty Bowl Project, the Chamber of Commerce events, and the Smithville Community Gardens.
Since 2013, this Club has supported the International Lions Club “Peace Poster Contest” for Junior High students (list of winners). This was an especially important contest the first year because a few months earlier one of the students at the Smithville Junior High committed suicide on school grounds. This poster contest helped the students who participated work through some of the pain and focus on peace.
• City of Smithville Departments
City of Smithville Departments often collaborate with community organizations to enhance and create artistic and cultural offerings and programming in Smithville.
For example, Smithville Public Library (SPL) partners with Keep Bastrop County Beautiful for programs like KBCB’s recycled Christmas ornament contest for students throughout the County; SPL encourages people to tell their stories for posterity through the “StoryCorps @ Your Library” program (Smithville was one of 10 libraries to receive this award during the pilot project phase of this national program), and SPL brought the “Let’s Talk About It: Muslim Journeys” literary program to Smithville through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Libraries Association.
The Parks and Recreation Department supports art in public places through their burgeoning Parks program, the Recreation Center provides community space including a stage for groups wishing to host culturally relevant events, and development at Riverbend Park (including two stages, a dance floor, booths with electricity, a pavilion, a baseball field, a disc golf course, and various other amenities) has created a terrific venue for music festivals, rodeos, and a wide variety of other events.
• Other Partnerships
The City of Smithville and the Lost Pines Artisans’ Alliance partner with many other organizations to enhance services and cultural activities, and are always seeking to develop partnerships when needed and as opportunities arise.