If money were no object, John Mills dreams of an arts center in Neosho’s downtown.


If money were no object, John Mills dreams of an arts center in Neosho’s downtown.

But for now, the Neosho Arts Council president will have to content himself with some other good news: Recent notification of the group’s new non-profit status as a 501(c)3 organization under the IRS code.  

Organized in the fall of 2009, the Neosho Arts Council was officially incorporated early last year for the stated purpose, according to its website, of “strengthen(ing) and enrich(ing) the community by growing appreciation, participation and support of the arts.”

With the council’s new non-profit status, Mills is hoping those efforts will now be accelerated. For starters, most donations to the group will now be tax-deductible, Mills pointed out. Additionally, he said, it opens the door for special funding from the Missouri Arts Council and other organizations. Up to now, the local arts council has had to apply for grants through other non-profit go-betweens, namely the Neosho Area Business and Industry Foundation, Inc.

Funding is needed to help bring in special artists, performances and host other activities, such as the ArtSquared Spring Arts Festival that debuted last May.

“I’m hoping the arts council can be the stimulus for lots of activities — workshops, plays, concerts, displays, art classes,” Mills said. “We want to sponsor those types of things to get local people involved in the arts, as well as bringing artists from around the state and around the country to perform here.”

This April, the Neosho Arts Council has arranged for Cultural Kaleidoscope, a multi-faceted program, to pay a visit to Westview School. While school districts and other not-for-profit organizations, such as chambers of commerce, can apply for cultural grants on their own, Mills sees the Neosho Arts Council as a sort of go-to group in bringing it all together.  

“We hope the arts council will be the enabler to tie the availability of funds with, in a school’s case, curriculum,” Mills said. “We want to be that element that people begin thinking about.”

At the heart of the Neosho Arts Council is a five-member board of directors — mostly local business owners, with four more seats to eventually be added — at which Mills is the head. The council is supported, however, by lots of community volunteers, Mills noted. There is no general membership roster.

As the number and scope of activities grow, so will the need for more volunteers and, possibly, a part or full-time director, Mills said. However, that is still a ways down the road and, at this point anyway, only a dreamy wish list item.

An even bigger dream, taking out the all-important money equation, would be to convert one of the vacant buildings in Neosho’s historic downtown to a local arts center, similar to Springfield’s Creamery Arts Center, if not as big, Mills said.

He said a center like that could be a place for rotating art shows, concert performances, amateur theatre groups, a rehearsal location for a future city symphony orchestra and lots more.

“Of course, that’s a dream away,” Mills admitted. “But certainly there are empty facilities available around here. It’s just you’ve got to have that ‘m-word’ — money.”

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This Saturday, the Neosho Arts Council is hosting “A Sweet Arts Gala,” a semi-formal fundraising event at 6:30 p.m. at the Neosho Civic. It will feature a social, dinner, dance and auction, with music provided by the Jack Mitchell Big Band. For more information, and for ticket prices, call Mills at 451-2885. Or go to the Neosho Arts Council website at www.neoshoarts.org.