Mary W. Lawson
As long as I can remember, I have been involved in the arts. I took piano and dance at an early age, sang in the church choir, began playing the organ in high school all followed by an excellent cultural experience in college in Charlotte, NC. The college choir sang with the local opera, I experienced the grandeur of the symphony orchestra, the magnificent music of the large churches.... all which influenced my life going forward.
I grew up in rural southwest Virginia and returned there soon after graduation and marriage. I had the good fortune of organizing a local arts agency which, after 37 years is going strong. I served on the Virginia Commission for the Arts for five years where I got a glimpse of wonderful programs and events taking place across the Commonwealth, some of which we were able to replicate in rural southwest Virginia.
My employment at our local community college provided me a further opportunity to promote the arts in that setting where we continue to have an excellent music and art program which touches many lives. Students, faculty, staff and the community take advantage of the programs, concerts, exhibits etc. provided by the College.
I personally know by experience how important the arts are to individuals, regardless of age, and especially in a rural area such as southwest Virginia. While we are lacking in a vibrant economy today, we are culturally rich, much of this is due to the important support of the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. I hope this support continues for years to come. The impact is immeasurable and vital to a healthy community.