WAFAC looks to grow and prosper

by HANNAH BROADBENT
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“The goal is to bring arts and entertainment close to home, to Watertown,” said Watertown Area Fine Arts Council (WAFAC) member Kevin Holmes.

The WAFAC organization started in 1997, by Watertown resident Mary Lou Jirik. She said at that time a friend of hers said to her, “We have to do something to bring some culture to Watertown.”

Jirik hopped on the band wagon and started WAFAC.

“I needed stimulation and socialization,” she said. “Culture, music and art are all very important to me.”

Jirik has been playing piano since second grade. When she retired she started teaching piano lessons and now has 30 students.

She recalls the organization’s first event. It was music in the park, a bluegrass band played on a hay wagon.

Jirik said the organization has evolved throughout the years, starting with local bands to hiring larger bands and famous pianists, and back to local artists.

Jim May, the WAFAC treasurer, said that with local artists they can keep their ticket prices to $5 to $10. He has been with the group since 2007 and said he has seen that people prefer keeping it local.

Jirik said she knows a lot of people that come to their events depend on them. She said their attendees don’t drive into the cities or don’t want too.

“It’s good to see people locally come out and enjoy the events,” Holmes said. “One of my joys is seeing other people from other towns coming to Watertown.”
Holmes said the benefit for community members is that all their events are low cost and low travel.

The organization of about 10 members is a non-profit. May said sometimes they will donate all the money made from an event to a local group like the local food shelf or Freedom Farm. He said he noticed that people really respond to that.

Jirik said she has a couple goals for the organization. She hopes to apply for a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. They have been awarded the grant before and it is usually around $5,000. Jirik said the money is used for general operation of the group but she hopes to try and bring larger artists out here once again.

Right now, their events are sponsored by a few local businesses, but their largest sponsors are the Lion’s Club and the City of Watertown.

The city has community program funding and awards WAFAC about $2,000 a year.
Jirik and May also said that they want more involvement with younger people. Specifically, they want to utilize the high school students. Though they both with they had more all-around collaboration with people, businesses and groups in Watertown.

“We want to work with everybody,” Jirik said.

At the end of the month, June 25, WAFAC is holding music in the park. This year, it has a sort of twist, something they have never done before. They are holding a somewhat collaborative event with the Watertown Red Devils baseball team.

Holmes said, for the most part they have events scheduled for the next year but this event was a sort of last minute one.

Hillbilly Cadilac is a band of local artists that will perform at 4:00 p.m. Two hours after the start of the baseball game. The event is free.

“Anytime you can bring people together, friends, neighbors, just getting together is important,” May said.

May, Jirik and Holmes agree that regardless of the specific event, whether it be piano recitals or photography competitions, the goal is to bring diversity to Watertown and have people respect that diversity.

“Getting people to Watertown and showing them what we have here,” Holmes said. “Watertown is changed and there’s a lot of things to do.”

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