Investing in the arts: Chatham Arts Council supports JMArts’ mission with grant

Siler City, NC – JMArts, the Jordan-Matthews Arts Foundation, recently strengthened the organization and expanded its services to the Spanish-speaking community thanks to a grant from the Chatham Arts Council.

Known as a “capacity-building grant,” the $5,000 award from the Chatham Arts Council is designed to strengthen organizations and provide better programs to constituents and the entire community. For JMArts, that meant focusing on three specific projects: expanding services for Spanish-speaking families, updating bylaws and financial procedures to provide a stronger foundation for the organization, and creating a portal to draw more volunteers into the effort.

JMArts already has a vibrant portfolio of projects — all designed, as the organization puts it, to help students interested in the arts reach their dreams, whether that means a career in the arts or a lifetime of artistic expression.

Its flagship initiative, JMArts Scholars, has awarded 89 scholarships to 60 students since 2012 for intensive study over the summer, usually at weeklong, residential workshops offered on university campuses. JMArts Scholars develop their talent, explore artistic options before making their college decisions and bring what they learn back to share with other students.

Fiona (Jacqueline Basilio), from left, Donkey (Karsyn Vann) and Shrek (Buck Thornton) embrace their authentic selves at the conclusion of “Shrek The Musical,” produced by JMArts with the Jordan-Matthews High School fine arts department. (Photo by Chip Pate)
Fiona (Jacqueline Basilio), Donkey (Karsyn Vann) and Shrek (Buck Thornton) embrace their authentic selves at the conclusion of “Shrek The Musical.” (Photo by Chip Pate)

But that’s just the start. JMArts’s most visible project may be producing the annual musical; last year, it was “Shrek The Musical.” The nonprofit also takes eight upperclass arts students to New York City each spring break to learn directly from world-renowned artists; works with community partners to offer free student workshops led by professional artists; produces the annual “Sing and Play” student music competition for K-12 musicians throughout the area; and offers a variety of public concerts and events.

The Spanish piece of the puzzle was especially important, said JMArts President Rose Pate, because it’s something the organization was preparing to begin a little more than three years ago — just before the pandemic hit. “At that time,” she said, “we immediately had to stop all of our plans and focus all of our effort on providing immediate help for students. Things like moving performances, art exhibitions and awards presentations online and even providing some connection with arts in the outside world.”

It was fairly successful, though such a dramatic shift set the organization back. But the Chatham Arts Council grant helped JMArts continue their recovery and begin moving forward again. For example, as part of the expanded services for Spanish-speaking families, the nonprofit has added a Spanish-language section to its website, welcomed Spanish-language social media managers and strengthened translation services.

Those initiatives mirror efforts underway elsewhere in Jordan-Matthews arts. Last year’s theater teacher Sawyer Shafer, for example, experimented with providing Spanish translation on headsets during performances of “Almost, Maine” and “Shrek The Musical.”

Siler City Elementary Dual Language Teacher William Ureña, the parent of a JM actor and musician, has joined the JMArts board of directors and will be leading the expanded outreach. He and his wife, Zulma, will be responding to messages sent through a new address created for Spanish email.

With JMArts having so many plans derailed by the pandemic — and with arts organizations everywhere struggling to recover audiences and contributions — Pate was wondering if JMArts would even survive. Things are slowly getting better, she said, and projects funded by the grant should help the organization continue its decade-long service to high school arts students.

“It’s such a great service for all-volunteer organizations like ours to have these resources to support all of the behind-the-scenes work it takes to provide meaningful opportunities for students and programs for our entire community,” Pate said. “We appreciate the Chatham Arts Council’s commitment to local arts education and all that means to improving the lives of our children.”

More information about JMArts is available online at