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Photos by Dante Fontana
In Lincoln, it’s all about the clay. Back in the early 1870s, Mr. Gladding found a huge clay deposit while searching for coal reserves.
He sent samples to his colleague Mr. McBean and as the old cliché says, the rest is history. Along with the Central Pacific Railroad, the Gladding McBean terra cotta factory brought Lincoln from tiny to thriving.
Just off Highway 65 past Thunder Valley Casino, you will find a small, friendly community with lots of big things happening. The community leadership has worked to retain Lincoln’s small-town feel, despite its tremendous growth. Although it was a sleepy little railroad town for nearly a century, much has changed in the past few decades: like being named one of the “fastest growing cities” by Forbes Magazine, to being honored with a 2006 “All-American City” designation. And, possibly one of the most important milestones was the formation of the non-profit group Lincoln Arts and Cultural Foundation in 1986.
“It is a worthwhile program for our community,” explains Lincoln Arts Executive Director Claudia Renati. More than 100 volunteers agree. “We couldn’t operate without our wonderful dedicated volunteers,” Renati says. With no guaranteed funding coming in, Lincoln Arts sometimes struggles to make ends meet.
The largest event is a partnership with the Gladding McBean Company. With their help, Lincoln Arts has brought the annual “Feats of Clay” to life for 23 years. It started with a bunch of potters getting together for a small potluck lunch. “Feats” has grown into an international competition that drew 800 entries and nearly 5,000 art and history lovers in 2010. Those that appreciate art will be impressed by the diverse and eclectic works that are displayed and history buffs will love it because it is all showcased within the Gladding McBean factory. From the last weekend in April to Memorial Day, the factory hosts the art and the public. You can view the traditional terra cotta sewer pipe and architectural crafting methods and modern art pieces in one visit.
Music and other art mediums are also celebrated throughout the year. This month, the gallery will feature “Paint Mexico” where artists can enter and showcase their work depicting our southern neighbor to be judged and admired. “We have something happening every month,” Renati says. However, this is hard work for a community program that receives no government endowments. “We depend on our membership,” Renati explains, “and our generous sponsors to keep things running.”
In these hard financial times, every cent counts for small nonprofits like Lincoln Arts. President of Lincoln Arts, June Reeves, is always interested in possible funding opportunities. “We need financial support throughout the year to keep our doors open,” Reeves says.
Retired University of the Pacific Art Professor Gil Dellinger says, “Art is important. We tend to think it is a luxury, but it gives people deep pleasure because beauty is the personification of hope that something grander is at work.” With the help of the community, Lincoln Arts plans to keep this idea alive and inspire local artists.
For more information, visit lincolnarts.org.