Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

February 6, 2013

Chamber honor: RAA impacts quality of life here

Debbie Blank
The Herald-Tribune

BATESVILLE — The Rural Alliance for the Arts, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, was applauded as the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Organization during the chamber’s annual dinner Jan. 31.

Jolene Rockwood, founder and past president, and Leacarol Bennett, the current president, let the crowd in on the top 10 little-known secrets about the nonprofit. Bennett asked, “Did you know that the beautiful, gigantic new mural that appeared in downtown Batesville last June was our most recent ... project?”

Rockwood pointed out the organization has hosted many famous groups usually seen in much larger communities, such as the Vienna Boys Choir and prestigious ballet companies performing “The Nutcracker” with local students. “You don’t have to drive into Cincinnati or Indianapolis ... You can see it right here at a fraction of the cost!” “The Legend of Johnny Cash” is slated for March 9.

“The RAA has been an integral part of the Batesville Music and Arts Festival,” according to Rockwood. It has sponsored the Thursday night event plus a monthlong Community Art Show.

Every other summer the group produces a musical, ranging from  “Oliver!” and “Fiddler on the Roof” to “Peter Pan” and “Beauty and the Beast,” using a professional director and dozens of local citizens. A fall dinner theater production and summer children’s theater camp and show organized by Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre also are part of the entertainment mix, Bennett reported.

The Rural Alliance for the Arts has been recognized for having one of the finest arts in education programs in the nation, the founder noted with pride. “Our cutting edge program was recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts and the RAA was designated a state master site by the Indiana Arts Commission. Very few communities of our size in the United States have anything close to the full program we offer” at six public and private schools.

The current president added, “Most schools have awards for academics and sports, but few communities have a program such as the RAA Young Artist Showcase that awards students who excel in the arts. Each year the RAA presents over 150 beautiful ribbons and trophies to students in grades 6-12” in art, music, writing, dance and drama categories.

“Did you know that the RAA was one reason why Batesville won the Community of the Year Award from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce a few years ago?” asked Bennett. “Numerous studies have shown that the presence of a strong arts program in a community attracts skilled employees and strong families ..., strengthens business and commerce, helps create programs and events that enrich individuals and families and unify the community and plays a major role in building strong schools.”

Rockwood urged listeners to become RAA members. “You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have supported an organization that is doing really amazing things in your community and your children’s schools.” More details are available on the Web site www.ruralalliancearts.com.

Bennett concluded, “The arts are an integral part of what makes us human, happy and fulfilled.”