State of RAAC
RAAC is 40 years old!! For four decades, we have been celebrating art in Rappahannock County. Our support for the arts takes many forms — creating, partnering, sponsoring, and producing arts events. We’ve grown to become a core player in making our rural county a lively and vital place.
RAAC is an all-volunteer organization. We rely on the financial support, artistic contributions, and participation of the broader community—you! I’m delighted to say that RAAC is stronger and more engaged, energetic, and creative than ever.
To commemorate our 40th Anniversary, we have reimagined our logo to reflect RAAC’s enduring vitality and vision of building and sustaining community through the arts. We have also refreshed our website to make it visually more appealing and easier to find the information you need. I invite you to visit us at raac.org to see for yourself. Our upgraded Look & Listen, emailed twice a month, will keep you abreast of 40th Anniversary celebration events as well as other local arts happenings in 2023.
Interestingly, 2022 was both a transition year as we emerged from the pandemic and it was a break-out year as we made significant programmatic changes. Here are some of the big changes and themes that will continue into 2023:
Music solidified as a major new RAAC program. We arranged and produced concerts and facilitated others through our financial support:
- Sperryville Summer Concerts—neighbors listened and danced to their favorite local bands as they picnicked at the confluence of the north and south forks of the Thornton River. RAAC teamed with the Sperryville Community Alliance to make these free monthly outdoor concerts happen.
- July 2nd Concert at Avon Hall—RAAC co-sponsored the post-Covid return of the Bourgeois Concert Band to the delight of all.
- 4th of July Festival—RAAC financed the music before the fireworks as big crowds gathered for the resumption of this popular community event produced by the Sperryville Fire Department.
- SperryFest Music—RAAC arranged for local bands to entertain happy visitors at this annual free event produced by the Sperryville Community Alliance.
- John Jackson Piedmont Blues Festival—RAAC co-sponsored the music for this Virginia Cooperative Extension event honoring an amazing Rappahannock native.
- We kicked off 2023 with our first indoor concert on January 7th featuring top Rappahannock singers and songwriters.
Children’s enrichment programs have become a central mission area for RAAC, especially in collaboration with Headwaters and the Rappahannock County Public Schools:
- Annual RAAC Scholarship Award to a graduating high school student
- Summer workshops and drama camp
- After-school enrichment classes
- Student art contributions from five County schools showcased in the Fall Art Tour.
- Mitchell Arts Fund grants for art projects, summer chorus, private instrumental lessons, school plays, song writing workshops, and band coaching.
The Fall Art Tour returned in all of its glory showcasing nearly 40 studios and galleries with 80 participating artists. Record numbers of visitors attended the Tour with many enjoying our local restaurants and lodgings in addition to seeing and buying artwork. The Art Tour now plays an important role in furthering the County’s tourism goals, and RAAC has increased participation by making the Tour free for visitors.
Community Theater catapulted from a 2-year hiatus into four successful productions—two stage readings, the return of No Ordinary Person (an evening of autobiographical stories), and sold-out performances of A Christmas Carol that featured 17 children. Adding to this momentum is the arrival of new thespians expressing interest in future productions!
A New RAAC Theatre Venue became a reality in 2022 as RAAC’s indoor productions shifted to the Little Washington Theatre which we now call home. The move was precipitated by safety concerns with our previous quarters across the street in the old repurposed church affectionately known for years as the RAAC Theatre. A recent structural engineering study for Rappahannock County identified multiple problems with the old building including personal safety. With reluctance, the RAAC Board decided to seek another venue. By good fortune, the owner of the Little Washington Theatre, Nancy Raines, generously offered her theater to RAAC for arts events. The decision, though hard, was clear and we’re now enjoying our larger space with permanent seating, a bathroom for patrons, and a green room for performers. And we’re busy upgrading the theater’s sound system for the benefit of all.
Ephemeral Art enjoyed its inaugural exhibition this fall along the walking trail in Sperryville beside the Thornton River. This was another example of teaming with other nonprofits, Sperryville Community Alliance and RLEP, to make things happen. A spring Ephemeral Art Exhibit is being planned for spring 2023 and another in the fall.
Returning Programs. We’re still emerging from Covid and are gradually phasing in popular RAAC programs:
- We held our first Film-Talkback last October highlighting Nol Putnam’s work as blacksmith/artist, and presented an Author Reading event in November.
- We’re beginning to schedule talks and presentations at the RAAC Theatre; a fascinating talk is set for February 10.
- The incredibly popular Soup & Soul has been in hiatus but we’re arranging an interim version—Sip & Soul—for March 18 at the Quievremont Vineyard and Winery, featuring Celtic musicians Linn Barnes and Allison Hampton.
RAAC’s Mitchell Arts Fund continued to inject needed financial resources into the arts community—over $50,000 in awards last year to individuals and organizations! Grants supported community performances by and for students, dance scholarships, creation and production of original music, arts and crafts camp, art and music classes, workshops and more. We have awarded over $350,000 over the past 12 years!
From a Financial Perspective RAAC remains rock solid. We continue to operate in the black, and have a contingency fund to cover challenges and opportunities. For example, we used some of those funds early in the pandemic to support local artists who were hurt monetarily by closures.
Our Conviction is that a community infused with the arts is stronger, livelier, and more connected. This conviction has remained true since our founding 40 years ago.
Our organization rests on three pillars: dedicated and talented volunteers; artists, musicians and other participants who make our programs happen; and supporters who contribute to RAAC so generously. And guiding this endeavor is a Board recognized for its energy, vision, camaraderie, and thoughtfulness. Together we will continue to pursue our mission to Inspire Art and Build Community!
Matthew Black, President
Rappahannock Association for Arts and Community
Rappahannock Association for Arts and Community
PO Box 24
Washington, VA 22747
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