It’s full steam ahead at the Visual Arts Center in Punta Gorda.

The center kicked off its first of two open houses for 2019 on Thursday. The event runs through Saturday during regular operation hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

As part of its open house, VAC representatives introduced the center’s newest addition: an art and supply store. While the store still has some work to be done, it is currently operational for students and guests of the center.

“We put together our first watercolor kit (on Thursday),” said Kimberly Phillips, VAC programs and education director. “We have a student who was in on Friday to purchase it, which would be the first official (student) sale. Although, we did just sell a couple of brushes already Thursday morning.”

Why is an art and supply store important?

The store is part of the Patterson Foundation’s Margin & Mission Ignition Initiative, which guides nonprofits in the creation of long-term efforts to become more financially stable.

“The initiative has been really wonderful for us,” said Janet Watermeier, executive director at the center. “It enabled us to think more like a business and to think of ways to not have to use as many donations (just) to keep the lights on.”

What’s the Patterson Foundation?

The Patterson Foundation, based out of Sarasota, focuses on enabling the efforts of nonprofits in Southwest Florida.

As part of the initiative, Patterson matches investments made toward the start-up costs of a nonprofit’s entrepreneurial plans, such as the costs the center will take on to create the art supply store.

I am very excited to be able to help the Visual Arts Center with an amazing opportunity to create their Art & Supply Store,” said Rachel Keesling, former Punta Gorda mayor. Keesling, who lost the City Council seat election to Debby Carey, donated her remaining campaign funds to the center’s efforts.

“This new opportunity is helping the staff expand the inner workings of the VAC and will create a stable revenue source,” said Keesling.

What’s next?

Despite having raised $100,000 through local donations and the Patterson foundation’s match, VAC still has more to do at the art and supply store and in its long-term efforts.

“We needed $125,000 to do everything,” said Watermeier. “We have $25,000 to go. We’ve got everything we can do with the funds that we have.”

The Visual Arts Center is located at 210 Maud St. in Punta Gorda. Classes and workshop listings are available at www.visualart


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