HOMER — For some people, the term art refers to nothing more than painting a picture or making something pretty.
But Ty Marshal, executive director of the Center for the Arts at 72 South Main St., said Wednesday he’s seen lives saved and changed for the better through arts and culture.
So when he was hired last year to replace Daniel Hayes, who stepped down after 10 years as director, he knew he wanted to bring arts and culture to as many people as possible.
In the year since he’s been in charge, Marshal said a number changes have taken place not just in terms of programming, but also in using the space more efficiently to host the kinds of events and activities people want.
“We’re finally settling into the idea that we can have a dance class, a private event and a theater rehearsal going on at the same time,” he said. “It’s working, but it also takes time to learn that that’s kind of the new face of the center.”
Marshal said what has been most encouraging is that people are coming forward with their own ideas for classes, concerts and events of all types.
From growing interest in the center’s Signature Dance Studio to music lessons, open mic nights and Classic Movie Thursdays, Marshal said he is happy to see residents play a part in creating a home for arts and culture in the community.
Cortlandville resident Sasha Francis, the instructor for the Creative Spoon cooking classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, joined the center about two months ago.
She said Wednesday she was not sure how well her classes would be received since she had never done anything like it before. But the Creative Spoon has become such a hit with students and their parents, she plans to turn it into an after-school program this fall.
“All the kids seem to be having a great time,” Francis said. “The parents are just wonderful. The Center for the Arts is just an amazing place to have it. We’re loving every minute of it.”
There is also a potential economic impact to all this activity, not just for the Center for the Arts, but for the area as well.
Marshal said over the last year,46 percent of the tickets to concerts are sold to Cortland and Tompkins counties while 54 percent are being purchased by people who live further away.
The Center for the Arts is trying to figure out the best way to reap the economic benefits of being a cultural destination for people beyond the boundaries of Cortland County, he said.
“We are so grateful for the local support. We would not survive without the local support,” Marshal said.
“(But) that other 54 percent … excites me because really we’re really looking at a unique form of economic development.”
Linda Dickerson Hartsock, chair of the center’s board of directors, is also a founding member of the Center for the Arts and one of the members who led the search for a director, ultimately hiring Marshal.
Though he’s only been executive director for a year, Hartsock said Wednesday she and the other board members are most pleased with Marshal’s focus on making the center not just a cultural hub for the community, but a destination and an economic driver.
“We were looking for someone who had that vision and he (Marshal) definitely has that vision,” Hartsock said. “I think everyone’s really excited about what the next chapter looks like under Ty’s leadership.”
Marshal said bringing change to the Center for the Arts has certainly not been without its challenges, but the time, donations, and support from members and volunteers is always appreciated and helps a lot.
He added his goal is to continue working with the community to make the Center for the Arts not only a cultural destination, but a thriving industry everyone can continue to take pride in.
“Yes, I love the arts.” Marshal said. “But also what a beautiful gift to have people experience Cortland in such a unique and fun and inspiring way. All you have to do is look … and you’ll see that it’s beautiful. The trick is getting folks to stop and experience it.”