Highlands Art League gets new director
By MELISSA MAIN
SEBRING — During the Renaissance period, art flourished, and Debbie Proulx, the new executive director of Highlands Art League, wants to see the positive influence of art experience a rebirth in Highlands County.
“A lot of programs at the art league were canceled and our membership had declined, that’s why a rebirth is needed,” Proulx said.
“I want the Highlands Art League to be seen in the community as a positive place to be,” she said.
Proulx’s focus on community outreach brings a unique perspective to the art league.
At her former job as a fund raiser for the Diocese of Norwich in Connecticut, she raised funds that allowed the Roman Catholic Church to feed the homeless and help with music programs. She enjoyed being a part of the outreach to the community.
In the same manner, Proulx wants to impact the community in a positive manner through the arm of the HAL — rather than the arm of the church, as she did with her former job.
She has taught art classes at the Boys & Girls Clubs in Avon Park and Sebring, because she wants to use art as a way to impact and enrich children’s lives. Her plans with the Boys & Girls Club are long-term, because she intentionally aims to build community ties. Besides summer art programs, she has plans to return to the club in November to help students create holiday-themedartwork.
Proulx has already developed three new classes foryouth: Play and Learn (ages birth to 5), After School Craft Hour (ages 5 through 12) and Pizza and Painting (ages 10 and older).
“I like nonprofits because they are there to help,”
Proulx said. “They fill a need, and I like helping people.”
Proulx enjoys using her organizational skills to structure new programs and plans to restart popular programs from the past, such as the artist of the month program, where one local artist will showcase artwork for an entire month at the gallery.
By the end of her first year as executive director, Proulx has several worthwhile goals she plans to meet. She would like to see membership doubled and the various children’s programs running at full capacity. In addition to the children’s programs, she plans to expand programs for all ages.
In order to meet her goals for expansion, Proulx knows that she will need to increase funding, but she hopes her seven years as a fund raiser for the Diocese of Norwich will help her succeed in beefing up the bottom line.
Although Proulx has only been working for three weeks, she has already sent out over 1,000 letters asking for sponsors for the upcoming annual Fine Arts Festival, which is being rebranded as the Art, Wine and Jazz Festival. With her positive outlook and extensive experience building community relations and raising funds, the rebirth of the HAL might be just around the corner.
Originally appeared in Highlands News Sun 8/2/2018