When Mary Jane Howard first took the position of executive director of the Lincoln Arts Council, it seemed like a perfect fit.
She was active in the theater, wrote poetry and loved art of all kinds. She also had a background in finance.
At the time, the Arts Council had two part-time positions. She convinced them to merge them together into one.
â€œI couldnâ€™t afford to work part time, but I would do both jobs full time,â€ she said.
The board was convinced, and so the former Bank of America employee took on a new job.
Over a 10-year span, Howard has done her part to encourage arts in Lincoln County.
Some of her favorite events include the Christmas Home Tour, which she started as a fund raiser. She loves visiting the historical homes of Lincolnton decorated lavishly.
â€œItâ€™s such a nice time of year and so much fun,â€ she said.
Then thereâ€™s A Place to Grow Art Show, another favorite event, which features the work of special needs students.
Other favorites include the Flo Robinson Literary Contest and the Catawba Valley Pottery Show. She also loves working with schools bringing storytellers to classrooms and exhibit the work of both teachers and students.
Of course, not everything about the job was wonderful. For one thing, she often worked seven days a week. For another, she doesnâ€™t enjoy sweating in the hot sun.
â€œI wonâ€™t miss standing out in the heat of the Apple Festival.â€
The big thing she will miss? The people. Especially the artists, who exhibited their works in the Lincoln Cultural Center galleries.
â€œArtists as a group are very solitary, so most of them are very shy,â€ she said. â€œI like getting to know them and helping them. Itâ€™s a wonderful experience helping people achieve.â€
Sheâ€™s seen the work of artists grow. One year, a Lincoln County resident may come home with nothing from a contest entered. The next year an honorable mention might be earned, and the year after that a first place ribbon.
Besides working with artists of all kinds, Howard has also dealt with the public and other cultural organizations in Lincoln County.
â€œSheâ€™s very patient, and sheâ€™s an enabler,â€ said her husband, Barrie.
Jean Dellinger, a long-time board member of the Lincoln Arts Council, praises Howardâ€™s work saying she helped carry out the councilâ€™s mission of enriching the cultural life of Lincoln County.
â€œShe certainly supported and strengthened the arts in our community,â€ Dellinger said.
At this time, Dellinger does not know who, if anyone, will replace Howard in the position of executive director. The matter will be discussed at a board meeting Monday night.
As for Howard, she has plans of her own.
â€œI do have four children and seven grandchildren,â€ she said.
Besides catching up with family, she wants to write a novel (or three), garden and continue being active in Lincoln Countyâ€™s artistic community.
She wishes the Arts Council well and encourages others to become involved in its events.
â€œI think itâ€™s a very worthwhile organization, and as far as I can tell, itâ€™s done nothing but good,â€ she said. â€œI hope it will go on and grow.â€
by Sarah Grano