Supporters see new programs for Mountain Arts Community Center's future

The Signal Mountain Town Council voted March 13 to start initial repairs to the front portion of Mountain Arts Community Center. The MACC's programs are housed in the Signal Mountain Elementary/Grammar School, the town's oldest remaining publicly owned building. (Contributed photo)

MACC nonprofit board members

* Angie Landrum* Cheryl Graham* Brooke Daniel* Brian Baker

With much-needed repairs finally underway for the Mountain Arts Community Center atop Signal Mountain, discussions have shifted from saving the historic building to expanding its recreational and educational offerings.

During a roundtable community forum Dec. 4, supporters of the MACC brainstormed programs to help put the center back on the map.

The session comes months after the Signal Mountain Town Council allotted $300,000 for initial repairs to the original portion of the facility. Built in 1926, the building is in need of structural repairs, upgrades for restoration and other improvements to come up to ADA compliance, as well as a new sprinkler system in the back portion of the building.

It also comes shortly after MACC Board member Angie Landrum began forming an independent 501(c)(3) to act as a fundraising arm for the center.

"We've been discussing the nitty-gritty stuff about the building for so long that it's almost been easy to almost lose sight of what the potential functionality of this building could be," said local resident Ryan Walker, one of the approximately 15 supporters in attendance. "To hear all those things again refreshes my memory."

Many of the ideas listed were geared toward making the MACC more focused on community instead of just the arts.

"That is one of the complaints we heard when we came before the town council: that people don't feel like our taxes should pay for the arts," Landrum said.

The renewed community focus would be seen through family entertainment activities, such as movie nights, and other proposed ideas, like including "museum-esque" display cases to exhibit photos and other memorabilia significant to the town's history.

Attendees also brainstormed programs that would attract visitors to Signal Mountain. One lure, they mused, would be bringing back the town's annual Spring Festival, which attendees said could raise $20,000-$30,000 in a day.

"It was the major fundraiser," said Cheryl Graham, who sits on the new fundraising group's board.

Attendees also said they hoped to see the MACC become a visitor center for Signal Mountain, complete with maps of the town and its trails to distribute to newcomers.

For those hoping to enjoy a night out without leaving the mountain, MACC Executive Director Barb Storm said a 501(c)(3) will be able to obtain a liquor license on an annual or per-event basis. The town operates the facility, and "the ability to serve wine and beer and even mixed drinks ... is totally impossible through the town," Storm said.

"As a venue, that would make a huge difference," she added.

Before the fundraising group can implement any of its desired programs, it will need more volunteers, said Landrum. In addition to recruiting supporters from the community, she also plans to recruit a volunteer coordinator to facilitate projects.

The group, which has not yet obtained 501(c)(3) status, will also need to sign a memorandum of agreement with the town detailing the terms of their public- private partnership. Once complete, the MOA will have to go to the planning commission, then back to the town council for a vote. The goal is to get the memorandum signed and 501(c)(3) paperwork filed by January or February.

Though Landrum and town officials are still ironing out the details of a lease agreement, the current scenario being discussed would let the nonprofit group lease the building for $1 a year, with the goal to make the MACC financially self- sufficient over time.

Right now, most of the MACC's operational costs are covered by the town. In fiscal year 2014-15, for example, $59,000 of the center's $146,000 costs were covered by the MACC with funds generated through programs and classes, said Town Manager Boyd Veal. Storm said it was the most the center has raised. The remaining $87,000 was contributed by the town.

The new fundraising group will oversee and operate the MACC effective July 1, replacing the current MACC Board and adopting an advisory role for the programs.

In the meantime, the group will start working to organize a fundraiser that could be held in spring 2018.

The next brainstorming session for that event and other topics related to the MACC will be held Tuesday, Jan. 2 at 6 p.m. All are invited to attend.

Contact staff writer Myron Madden at or at 423-757-6423.