A community nurtures the arts


File Photo/The Lion's Roar

The Hammond Regional Arts Center promotes the arts through exhibitions and events like the Common Read, inviting Kate Moore, author of “The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women,” to talk about her book. HRAC began working to promote the arts in its community in 1982.

Through more than an exhibition, the Hammond Regional Arts Center promotes and brings local, regional and national art to its community.

According to Tara Bennett, media coordinator for the HRAC, the arts center “provides an avenue for everyone in Tangipahoa Parish to enrich their lives through arts” and “to create a centralized cultural, artistic and educational facility for the community.”

Bennett said, “The arts center serves as a way of enhancing the quality of life in our community and providing a downtown destination for residents and visitors alike to view an exhibit featuring local and regional artists, participate in the Common Read, enjoy culinary craftsmanship, or to enjoy an intimate listening room experience.”

Maureen Joyce, executive director of the HRAC, discussed the importance of art in a community.

“The arts improve individual well-being, unify communities, improve academic performance, strengthen the economy, drive tourism, create social change and spark creativity and innovation,” said Joyce.

To achieve that goal in 1982, the Hammond Art Guild, Hammond Heritage Foundation, Columbia Theater Players, Hammond Arts Council and the Hammond Central Business District collaborated to establish the Hammond Cultural Foundation, which was later renamed to the Hammond Regional Arts Center.

“The 1982 ribbon cutting for the grand opening of its permanent location in the Levy Building, 217 East Thomas Street, culminated three years of intense efforts by local citizens,” shared Bennett. “Maya Levy, the first president of the foundation, was instrumental in persuading Alyce Levy to donate the building to the city.”

After a proposal, the Hammond City Council leased the building to the foundation. Volunteers set to work cleaning and preparing the HRAC building.

The HRAC became the official arts organization of Tangipahoa Parish in 1985 when Marjorie Morrison, a former president of the HRAC, made her case before the Tangipahoa Parish Police Jury and received a unanimous approval.

“Initially, the foundation was run by dedicated volunteers, but as activities and duties increased, a director was hired,” said Bennett. “Local, regional and nationally acclaimed art exhibits have always been a staple offering since the art center’s inception.”

Joyce hopes to see the arts center continue to grow in 2019.

“We have a bright future with outstanding, quality exhibitions and programs as well as exciting partners in the business community such as Luma Coffee and Zocalisa Chocolates whose artfully created products generate more visitors to our exhibitions and enhances their experience,” shared Joyce. “We are exploring evening hours during productions at the Columbia Theatre.”

Pat Macaluso, board member of the HRAC, has worked with the arts center since its birth as an original charter member. By holding every officer position throughout her time, Maculuso saw the arts center grow over its 37 years of running.

“The organization has grown from a completely volunteer organization to the development of a professional staff that sees to the day-to-day operations of the organization,” explained Macaluso. “The board has grown and developed into a fully functioning and participatory body. Our membership continues to grow every year, and our outreach programs encompass many other organizations and entities in the community.”