Impact Stories

From Lumber Company to Live Concerts: Thriving through the Changes that Built the Arts Park

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Community growth sometimes requires a heavy dose of change. And change can be intimidating.

If all goes well, we come out the other side of it better for having taken the risk.

Henry County took on a risk years ago with the reinvention of the Arts Park and Pavilion. When the property on 15th street was donated to the Art Association, it took a team of hopeful individuals and organizations to create a vision and see it through. The Foundation was fortunate to be a part of the process through the Choose Henry Grant Cycle.

At the time of donation, what is now the Arts Park was Jennings Lumbar Company. Nancy Deitz, a long-time Art Association member and volunteer remembers, “I was thrilled to death when the family decided to donate the land for the Arts Park. The pavilion where the concerts take place was a storage space right off of the railroad tracks. It’s amazing how much it has grown in just 22 years. The land started with nothing, and everything really took off.”

Transformations like this don’t happen overnight though. It took a fully committed effort from the community. People donated time, supplies, and finances to make the space what it is today. In the early days of planning, planting, and restoring, several volunteers came together to plot paths. Nancy recalls the team meeting over the summer, always being covered in dirt, and taking breaks for the train to go by before restarting discussions.

Now the Arts Park is host to a great variety of events from free concerts and renaissance fairs to weddings and school dances. It’s a great place for an afternoon stroll through the foliage or an evening gala for a nonprofit. Henry County has been able to embrace and utilize this area for more than 20 years now.

Nancy shares, “It was really tremendous to see the amount of support. There’s a huge list of donors and clubs that have given to the cause.”

And donors like you played a part in creating a beautiful, green space for the community! The Foundation was there at the beginning and has continued to be there over the years through funding from grant cycles. Funding that is provided by generous donors who want to see the community thrive.

  • In 1992 The Henry County Community Foundation participated in a project match grant to open the Art Association of Henry County.
  • Over the years, the Art Association has received 27 grants from the Choose Henry Flex fund for projects like mural camp, a pottery wheel and art supplies, and the Arts Park.
  • The Art Association has an agency fund with the Foundation and receives a yearly payout to help with their ongoing expenses. The Art Association has been a recipient of several Designated and Donor Advised Funds from the Foundation – T. Leonard & Lillian T. Nelson Endowment Fund, Scott B. & Helen H. Chambers Gift of Nature Fund, Verl & Betty Shaffer Donor Advised Pass Thru Fund, Mary Morris Summer Art Days Fund, Weidert Family Fund, Franklin John Schwegman and Judith A. Heavin-Schwegman Art Association of Henry County Fund, Shaffer Picture Fund, Richard Myers and Bonnie Myers Donor Advised Fund.