I recently spoke with Bill Purdie, president of the new nonprofit Milton Arts Council, and he brought up an interesting point. Purdie heralded the Milton Theatre Company, stating their productions are more on par with a professional troupe than a group of high school-aged teens. And with that, he asked a pertinent and burning question — where do these talented, experienced and driven students go to further pursue their passion for theatre?
Unfortunately, once their days at local high schools are over, the answer is not the city of Milton.
It could be argued that Milton is a young city and has not yet had the opportunity to build the foundation of its arts community. But that argument falls flat when you consider Johns Creek, also incorporated in 2006, has the Johns Creek Arts Center, an Arts and Culture Board and an arts festival.
I don’t want to dismiss the Milton Literary Festival. It is a large, interesting and important celebration within the city. Unfortunately, it’s the only one.
And it would be hard to argue that Milton’s lack of arts programming or celebrations is due to a disinterest among residents. I have to believe there is a robust desire and interest to celebrate the arts in such a city as large, affluent and educated as Milton.
However, officials are understandably cautious about using taxpayer dollars for public art cultivation or celebration, and that seemed to be the case when the Milton Cultural Arts Committee was disbanded soon after it was created. And that’s why I believe the creation of the Milton Arts Council is so vital.
The nonprofit already has plans to conduct community theatre productions, the first slated for this spring. There are also plans for a symphony orchestra, painting, sculpture, photography and crafts programming, and, to supplement the annual literary festival, writing programs and book clubs.
In the long-term, the council could allow Milton to join its North Fulton neighbors by creating a performing arts stage, an exhibit hall and classrooms.
The council’s goals are certainly ambitious, but why shouldn’t they be? It is an organization starting from scratch in a city that really has nothing to celebrate the arts beyond high school productions, live music at a few restaurants or the aforementioned literary festival. While those events certainly warrant praise for celebrating arts in the city, it’s still a drop in the paint bucket where cultivating an artistic community is concerned.
I do hope that through donations and volunteer work that the Milton Arts Council can reach its goals, because once the foundation is set, I believe the city can cultivate a talented, interested and passionate arts community.