Seymour High School student Autumn Kaplan had no trouble picking out which colored markers she wanted to use to decorate her art project at Southern Indiana Center for the Arts.

The 19-year-old gathered all the pinks and purples she could find.

“Pink and purple are my favorite,” she said, coloring in the spaces on her canvas that were covered with aluminum foil.

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With assistance from art center director Darnell Dukes, Kaplan was able to create a perfect Valentine’s Day piece featuring hearts and peace signs she had drawn. The foil made the artwork resemble a stained glass window.

“It’s a very simple technique that allows them to work with colors and textures while getting to make their own designs,” Darnell said. “I think they had a lot of fun.”

The class, which meets monthly, is made up of special needs students and is part of a new outreach effort by the art center.

MaryKate Helmsing, assistant director of special education at Seymour Community School Corp. said the partnership has worked out great for students.

“We have found that some students really enjoy art while others appreciate the chance to try something new and explore different places,” she said. “Our ultimate goal is to empower students to continue to explore and access these types of community opportunities beyond their high school career.”

For 25 years, the nonprofit art center, located at 2001 N. Ewing St., in Seymour, has provided group instruction and private lessons to members and non-members, including in drawing, painting and pottery. It also provides a site for local artists to exhibit and sell their work and for people to come immerse themselves in the arts.

Currently, Seymour resident Emma VonDielingen has her photography on display in an exhibit running through Feb. 22. There is no cost to visit and tour the center, which includes the pottery barn, the print museum and the Minutes to Memories garden.

Another popular offering is the center’s annual summer art camps for children and the free Friday Night Live concert series. The annual Bustock summer concert series also is held on the center’s outdoor stage.

“We try to do things that are for people of all ages,” she said.

The center even offers a ballet class.

In the past, SICA has experienced declining membership and a lack of involvement from the community. Dukes said that has changed some in recent years, but funding is an ongoing issue.

There is some concern if funding does not increase, the art center will have to close, Dukes added.

Although the property is owned and rented to SICA for just $1 a year by John Mellencamp, it is a misconception that the famous musician funds the center’s upkeep and operations, Dukes said.

“John’s philosophy was he would maintain it for the first two years and then we were to be self sufficient after that,” she said.

Dukes hopes to see 2017 be a landmark year in terms of increased membership, expanded offerings and more people experiencing and appreciating the arts locally.

“We’ve done more in the last fives years than we had in the previous 20,” Dukes said.

SICA kicked off a membership drive Jan. 13, with the goal of doubling its membership to 500 by the end of the year.

“I think that’s doable,” she said.

Dukes said in the 10 years she’s been involved with SICA she can’t remember ever doing a membership drive. There are different levels of membership, including for children, adults and families. There’s also new perks available for those members who choose to be a patron, contributor or advocate of the art center or a corporate member or sponsor.

The center is adding a small business membership to allow business owners to bring their employees to the center. Dukes hopes to increase interest from the businesses by offering a soup, sandwich and sample program to their employees along with the opportunity to rent the facility for private events.

“We realized we needed to get more community oriented,” she said. “We have found that if we want people to know about the art center, we are going to have to go to them. We want to be a way to sell our community.”

One way the center has increased awareness is through the Seymour CityJam summer concert series. Held in downtown Seymour, the free concerts are a way to bring the community together to enjoy an evening of music. Dukes also organizes and leads Paint the Town social painting events at various places in the community.

“I’ve learned there are three types of people when it comes to the art center,” she said. “There’s those who know about the art center and have been here. There’s those who know about the art center and have never been here and there’s those who have no clue we are even here.”

It’s her goal to move everyone into the first category, she said.

“It’s one of those things you take for granted,” she said. “It’s in your own backyard, but let’s go to Indianapolis or Louisville to do something.”

But in this area, there is not another hands-on art facility like SICA, she added.

“People don’t realize how fortunate we are to have this in our community,” she said.

At a glance

To become a member of Southern Indiana Center for the Arts or to find out about upcoming classes and events, visit www.soinart.com.

You can also sign up at the art center from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday or 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.

Checks and memberships also can be mailed to Southern Indiana Center for the Arts, 2001 N. Ewing St., Seymour IN, 47274.

For more information, call the art center at 812-522-2278 or email sicaadmin@frontier.com.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.