The Paulding Fine Arts Association offers much more than one of the county’s major festivals and showcase for local artists, a longtime member says.

Paulette Cheek said the association gives scholarships, hosts competitions, maintains a gallery and hosts exhibitions by top regional visual artists.

Cheek, a member for more than 20 years, said the group sometimes jokingly calls itself the county’s “best kept secret.”

She often asks those checking out its gallery in the Old Courthouse in Dallas if they had visited in the past.

“They say, ‘I didn’t know you were here,’” Cheek said.

The association will host its 17th Annual Fall Fest Saturday, Oct. 12, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. along Main Street in downtown Dallas.

Money it raises from its annual Fall Fest helps fund its annual college scholarship and host other events, Cheek said.

The association formed in 1982 when a group of local artists banded together after a bank agreed to display their works in its lobby, Cheek said.

The original group has grown steadily over the years and membership now totals about 85, she said.

The all-volunteer association has no paid staff and receives no government funding, in contrast to arts agencies in some neighboring counties.

Yet, its influence on Paulding’s cultural life ranges from encouraging college studies in the fine arts to hosting student and adult art competitions and organizing a festival primarily showcasing local artists and their wares, she said.

“Our goal is to bring the arts to Paulding County,” Cheek said.

Money from a late member and annual proceeds from the festival allow the association to offer a $1,000 scholarship to a student attending a college or university to major in fine arts.

She noted the money helps offset the cost of art supplies for college courses, which can be as much as $100 per week.

“We not only consider visual arts but performing arts as well,” she said. “School is so expensive.”

It has maintained a gallery, artist studios, classrooms and a gift shop on the second floor of the Old Courthouse building on Main Street in Dallas since 2012.

Its members teach classes for students and adults, while the group also hosts exhibitions of works from area artists like Marsha Hamby Savage and Juliana Zorka Thomas, she said.

The Fall Fest will feature 99 vendors offering everything from homemade arts and crafts and food to commercial products like Mary Kay, Cheek said.

She said more vendors likely will ask about being part of the festival but organizers want it to only be located along Main Street and the Courthouse Square — hence the limit of 99 vendors, she said.

Inflatables for the kids and two stages featuring music and entertainment from a range of acts will be available. Entertainers will range from youth dance studios to rock, country and Dixieland jazz bands.

DJs Thomas Cage of Swing Shift Entertainment and Patrick Williams of Preferred Sound Productions will keep music going between the stage acts, Cheek said.

For more information, including a list of vendors and a schedule of entertainers, visit www.pauldingfinearts.org/fall_fest.html.

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