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CALC Creates Community Through Visual Arts

By Kelly Church

Founded in 1992, the Carlisle Arts Learning Center (CALC) is a nonprofit organization supporting creativity and the development of self-esteem through visual arts. This, explains Executive Director Becky Richeson, makes Carlisle a better place to live for everyone.

"The arts bring energy and desirability to every space they fill - the arts draw people out of themselves, out of their homes, and brings them together," says Richeson. "CALC's programs are critical to the Carlisle community because they improve the desirability of Carlisle which directly correlates to the economic development and the quality of life in a community."

CALC Summer Art Camp for Kids!

A mainstay at CALC is ArtWORKS!, an after-school program for middle school and high school students. Students can participate in a series of art classes and workshops focusing on different mediums, ultimately building up to a larger project that makes the "students healthier and more self-confident." Richeson says the program encourages everything from creative solutions to problem solving - and helps build leadership skills, self-esteem and confidence while inviting the students to take an active role in the community. This year's theme for ArtWORKS! is Happiness Begins Where Selfishness Ends. All projects are centered around the importance of giving back to the community.

CALC's ArtWORKS! winning float: A Murder of Crows

"It is not easy to give back - students need to be confident and understand they are valuable and have great things to offer the community," Richeson says. "This is an incredible program."

Another initiative is CALC's partnership with The Elm Street Project, an organization dedicated to revitalizing the southside of Carlisle. Their partnership has resulted in The Birdhouse Project, also called Home Tweet Home. Local kids and artists will paint 100 birdhouses to be hung in trees, creating a colorful path through downtown and "providing a sense of belonging to something larger," Richeson says.

"Our public art programs are small but mighty and demonstrate that the community cares about this initiative," says Richeson. "They make Carlisle a place you want to be."

CALC watercolor class in upstairs gallery during the PA Watercolor Society Exhibit

Recently, CALC was chosen to host the Pennsylvania Watercolor Society's 36th International Juried Exhibition that displayed 120 pieces of work from around the world. This exhibit in particular was special to the CALC community because patrons attended from all over the state and surrounding areas - including Maryland and New York. Richeson says it was an honor to host the event.

The community of Carlisle, says Richeson, deeply supports CALC. She points to CALC's "most ambitious endeavor ever": a renovation of a historic firehouse that represents the arts district in Carlisle. Richeson says more than 250 people contributed, helping them reach their goal of $600,000 in order to complete the project. All funds were raised in less than two years.

Empty Bowls, an event coordinated and hosted by CALC to benefit Project SHARE

What does Richeson love most about working with CALC? "I love that my belief is CALC's belief: That together we are stronger and together we succeed," says Richeson. "We value partnerships and collaborations, and it is through partnerships and collaborations that true community is built and we do this utilizing the arts. That - and everyone at CALC is simply incredible!"

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