The Elk County Council on the Arts is dedicated to promoting the cultural enrichment of the residents of Elk County by expanding the opportunity for public participation in the arts.
The Council’s goal is to enhance the lives of county residents and the various local arts by offering experiences in the arts, providing educational opportunity and advice, and by supporting performers, musicians, artists, artisans and writers.
The Elk County Council on the Arts (ECCOTA) is a 501 (c) non-profit organization based in Elk County, Pennsylvania, a rural county located about two hours northeast of Pittsburgh. Founded in 1984 as a center for the development of all the arts in the Elk County area, ECCOTA provides a variety of opportunities to participate in the arts for the area’s residents. A wide selection of art classes and workshops for adults and children are offered. Additionally ECCOTA brings a selection of cultural programming to the area including: an annual children’s theater workshop; and programs by nationally and internationally renowned performers. ECCOTA also maintains a sales gallery featuring art work by more than 40 local and regional artists.
Since 2007 ECCOTA has administered over $325,000 in re-granted funds to over 100 projects and programs across 9 counties as a Pennsylvania Partner in the Arts (PPA). The PPA is a decentralized granting program that is a partnership between local organizations and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA). Now operating in all 67 counties in Pennsylvania, PPA re-grants funds to support a wide variety of local and community arts activities. ECCOTA also helps to administer PCA allocated Arts in Education (AIE) residencies in 5 counties. The AIE program places approved teaching artists in classrooms for 20 day residencies to provide a learning experience for the students and broaden the classroom teacher’s ability to teach their curriculum. Since 2007 ECCOTA has worked with the PA Wilds Artisan Development Work Group to develop and promote the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania (pawildsartisans.com). This DCED sanctioned trail, spans 12.5 counties and is working to develop directed tourism to promote exposure for artisans in the PA Wilds region. Since March 2014 ECCOTA has served as the administrative support for the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania, running communications, member billing and customer support for over 80 artisans and 50 trail sites (and growing).
The Elk County Council on the Arts had its beginning as an organization known as the Artists League of Elk County, founded by individuals interested in promoting and preserving the culture and art of the area. In 1984, the organization incorporated and in 1986 its name was formally changed to the Elk County Council on the Arts. A board of thirteen members, representing each of the thirteen municipalities and townships, was implemented to channel local and state funds to individuals and groups endeavoring to promote the arts in Elk County. The first project funded was the Picture Lady Program, an art appreciation program serving the elementary schools of Elk County. In 1988, the Stackpole-Hall Foundation launched a five-year plan to distribute one million dollars in Elk County among six general areas of service. The Elk County Council on the Arts was asked to study the area of cultural development, and received the first grant from these monies. This funding provided the means for hiring a full-time executive director in 1989 and opening an office and gallery to promote and market the work of local artisans. Further support was obtained from human service programs and volunteers.
Although ECCOTA began publishing a newsletter in 1986, 1990 saw the publication of The Sylvan Review, a regional anthology of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and artwork, written and edited by area residents. By 1991, ECCOTA had outgrown its first facility and moved to larger quarters, where it could hold more classes and exhibits. One of ECCOTAs main functions at this point was to distribute grant and other monies to local organizations in support of programs that endeavored to bring cultural events into Elk County.
ECCOTA soon began scheduling performances from outside sources for the entertainment and enrichment of community residents. Past programs include international performers such as a Japanese Puppet Theater troupe, Andes Manta, African dancers and the world-renowned Peking Acrobats. National stars such as Riders in the Sky have also performed in ECCOTA programs. In the mid-90s, ECCOTA hosted an annual Big Band Sound night featuring great jazz groups such as the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, the Carmen Mico Orchestra, and Guy Lombardos Royal Canadians. The arts council also began to sponsor bus trips to musicals, concerts, and other events to supplement their own programs. Although modern costs have forced the organization to raise prices from the original bus trip fee of $1, these trips remained popular for many years. ECCOTA contracted with the Elkwood Arts Program in 1994 to display and sell the handiwork of persons with disabilities. In 1995, ECCOTA implemented a series of classes designed to teach local artists how to create traditional crafts, produce them at home, and market them. These Cottage Industry classes were taught at the council offices and included batik, weaving, tile-making, paper making and calligraphy. In 1999, ECCOTA held a WoodzArt Celebration featuring a judged art show, craft displays and sales, music and demonstrations in the theme of the surrounding forest. In addition to these and many other classes, the council developed summer youth programs and classes with the help of college students whose employment was partially funded by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency and the Stackpole-Hall Foundation.
2005 saw the start of a Summer Concert Series in Elk County, which the arts council has remained very active in presenting and administering along with a committee of local officials. Our summer youth programming also continues to grow, developing from a week of Kids Art Classes to a full Summer Art Camp and, in summer 2008, a Summer Theater Camp.
ECCOTA has moved a total of five times since the first gallery, eventually settling at 237 Main Street in Ridgway, PA. The last move was due to a tragic water line break that flooded the previous gallery. With the help of the local community, ECCOTA was soon on its feet again in a new space that has become a very active sales gallery, classroom space, and community resource. In 2008, ECCOTA opened a second gallery spaced entitled ECCOTA Extended inside the Elk County Courthouse in Ridgway.
In recent years, ECCOTA has continued to support artists by administering grants such as the Local Government and Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts Project and Program Stream Grants. The arts council continues to seek funding for those who desire to support our motto of bringing the arts back home. Classes continue at the ECCOTA Gallery and other locations in many art areas and for many skill levels. The board and staff continue to look for new opportunities to bring the arts to the residents of Elk County.