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Tamaqua Community Arts Center Stimulates Area Tourism, Business Growth

By Kelly Church

Designed to be a place for the Tamaqua, PA community to create, learn and appreciate the arts, Tamaqua Community Art Center hosts public events for all to enjoy. The community center's vast program catalog encompasses all types of art, from performing to visual arts, and can also be rented by those who want to host events at the facility. One of their leading programs, Tamaqua Has Heart, was created by the community to promote tourism and industry in the area.

According to the center's coordinator, Tamaqua Community Art Center is a nonprofit that welcomed community feedback when purchasing and renovating the old Salem United Methodist Church in 2012.

"It all began with a community conversation on how residents wanted to repurpose an old church which [had] closed its doors," Rega said. "Not only did they envision a fine and performing art center, but they invested their own resources and time to launch programs such as an Open Stage Talent night, JAM session, kids crafts and music lessons."

One of the center's leading programs is Tamaqua Has Heart, designed to bring life back into the community. Through Tamaqua Has Heart, residents can design their own large heart, decorating the white canvas with whatever they want. Rega called Tamaqua Has Heart a direct result of a Dear Tamaqua event that was hosted in 2015. Residents were invited to share stories about their community, whether they be good or bad.

"What we discovered was our own love-hate relationship with ourselves," Rega said. "While we can share fond memories, and talk about what we like and dislike, there was very little verbal dialog around the hope for the future of our community."

Tamaqua Has Heart was then formed to celebrate the positive parts of Tamaqua, and inspire a hopeful future for the area. Different people and places are highlighted, with much of the downtown area as the focus. Thirteen artists were selected to make the hearts, as fiberglass sculptures, and the designed hearts are then placed throughout the streets of the community, strategically, to draw people to downtown between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

"One of our goals has been to highlight the beautiful architecture, history and natural resources that surround Tamaqua and bring back into the eye of entrepreneurs, small business owners and residents, that Tamaqua can once again be the hub or activity and shopping in Schuylkill and Carbon counties," Rega said.

Susan Sidoriak

Regular events at Tamaqua Community Arts Center include concerts, theater performances and art classes. Rega said the most popular classes include mosaics; pottery; paint and sip, where guests can drink wine while they paint; and chalk and chew, which includes painting and a sweet treat from a Tamaqua bakery. These classes are what Rega called make-it-and-take-it because guests leave with a finished piece. However, she said there are a lot of people who prefer formal instruction and time where they can work on their art independently. Those guests have opportunities at Tamaqua Community Arts Center as well.

"We offer a positive environment for a diverse group of people who want to learn, create and appreciate the fine and performing arts," Rega said. "Our doors are open to all performers and artists who wish to collaborate with other like-minded individuals. Open your eyes to the world of beauty that far surpasses the stigma of yesterday."

To learn more about Tamaqua Community Arts Center, visit tamaquaarts.org.

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