LIMA — Ten years ago when chatting with Martha “Martie” MacDonell, Mary “Molly” Weis came up with the idea to start diving deep into the history of community arts in the Lima area.
Tuesday morning, Weis and MacDonell, her now 89-year-old aunt, officially released “Beyond Our Imagination: Visionary Community Arts Projects in Lima, Ohio 1975-2003” at ArtSpace/Lima.
The book begins with MacDonell’s recollection of when she helped to organize a visit by the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company to Lima schools in 1977.
“The ‘aha’ moment for me was when (MacDonell) started telling stories about the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company residency,” Weis explained. “Thirty years have passed, and I said, ‘Why aren’t people pulling on your coattails?’ and she said, ‘I have no idea.” Then I began talking to the teachers and they said after they experienced that ride, they would use dance for learning how to use movement or to enhance student learning. They changed how they taught the rest of their careers.”
“Beyond Our Imagination” follows other cultural movements that have helped shape the Lima community, including the development of the Lima Area Arts Council, Willie Nelson’s free performance at the fairgrounds and the developments of Veterans Memorial Civic Center, American House and Common Threads. That history is told through MacDonell’s narrative.
“We heard all of these stories from her and then we decided to go and interview groups of people with each project. Then, I had to figure out whether there was enough there to tell a story or if there were enough memories to complement Martie’s memories,” Weis explained of the research process. “I did all the research at The Lima News, the museum and people would share their personal files, so I had to pull through those and blend the memory with the written.”
The goal for MacDonell and Weis was to not only tell the legacy of community arts projects but to continue the work.
“I think it’s a strength of our community that we were kind of sleeping on, we didn’t really know it was there,” Weis said. “That’s what motivated me to write them, so that the younger generations can really understand what it’s like to do civic work and to look at the outcomes. Some people sort of just look at art as just stuff on a wall or landscapes and that’s it. That’s one kind of art, but this is all art with community purpose.”
All sale proceeds will go to the new Arts with Community Purpose Education Fund, which launch in the spring and will support training and other educational programs building on Lima’s art legacy.
Reach Tara Jones at 567-242-0511.