Chris Shackelford, the driving force behind the resident arts and crafts school at The Jacksonville Center, is leaving her post as Educational Programming Director to become director of the Chestnut School for the Arts in Galax.

Chris’ energy and personality will be sorely missed at The Jacksonville Center and her departure marks one more setback as the arts center located in the old Dairy Barn on Rte. 8 just South of Floyd struggles to find its identity and survive.

Amy and I had a studio at Jacksonville from January 2004 through March 2007. We left because the center never generated enough traffic to support a gallery and the rents were the highest per square foot in the county. I also served on the board for nearly two years and as vice president of the board for a brief while. I resigned from both because, as my granddaddy used to say, the only way to stop the pain from banging your head into a stone wall is to stop doing it and walk away.

Like many arts centers in Virginia and elsewhere, Jacksonville is always scrounging for enough money to continue. A "cultural business incubator" turned out to be long on promises and short on results. Too many tenants complained that promised services never materialized and the rent was too high for what they got in return. The center’s legacy may be one of big ambitions and unfulfilled expectations. Jacksonville has, for too long, attempted to survive from grant to grant without any long-range plan or established fund raising program. The Center’s unfocused marketing effort appeared to be based on a "if we build it they will come" philosophy.

With such a strong artistic community in Floyd County, Jacksonville could, and should, be a major part of the arts and entertainment culture but it needs strong leadership, an established long-range and marketing plan and a lot more community support to realize its potential. With talent headed out the door and tenants seeking new locations with more visibility, high traffic counts and lower rents they need to do something and do it soon.