0407 RSAF Bowman

Pictured is the Old Rock School in Valdese, home of the Rock School Arts Foundation.

VALDESE — The Rock School Arts Foundation recently announced its new executive director, tapping someone with an extensive art education background to take over the reins.

Sharon Bowman stepped in to lead the foundation and its galleries on Feb. 1. A Hickory resident who graduated from Lenoir-Rhyne College, Bowman worked for Catawba County Schools for nearly 30 years, including 18 years as a visual arts teacher at Claremont’s Bunker Hill High.

Since her retirement from the Catawba school system, Bowman has fulfilled a six-month contract as coordinator of Shop HMA at the Hickory Museum of Art.

Now, she’s excited about what lies ahead with the RSAF — an educational organization that, in conjunction with the town of Valdese, promotes the visual arts to residents of all ages in Valdese and surrounding communities — after taking over for the recently retired Elizabeth Furr.

“I’m extremely excited about it,” Bowman said. “It’s going to be such a great adventure.”

Bowman said she wants to maintain the level of excellence the foundation already enjoys. She wants to increase even further the quality of the galleries’ exhibits and the programs at the foundation. She wants RSAF to grow so it can do even more of what it already is doing so it can reach more citizens in Valdese and the surrounding area.

While she’s excited about the opportunity and already has a list of goals, the chance to lead the foundation isn’t something Bowman was expecting before it happened.

“I did not know that the job was coming about,” Bowman said. “I didn’t know anything about the foundation at all before I was asked to submit my resume. Then, I started looking into the foundation, its mission statement and its exhibits and classes and things of that nature.

“It seemed like for such a small place as Valdese, North Carolina, this was a big thing. They were doing very well. They had had a lot of outstanding exhibits in the past. Their plan for this year looked so incredible. I’m a retired visual art teacher, so art is very near to my heart.”

Coming off her tenure with the Hickory Museum of Art, with which she had the chance to become acquainted with even more artists, Bowman said it seemed like a golden opportunity to join RSAF.

“It would be something that I had never thought of being involved in, to be in a position like this for a nonprofit,” she said. “Maybe as a volunteer, but never as a director. So, I looked upon it as an opportunity to become involved in a place that I didn’t know about and, hopefully, help it become more well-known.

“Get the name out. Let’s let everybody know what a gem the Rock School Arts Foundation is.”

Since taking over, Bowman said her time with RSAF has been incredible, enlightening and interesting. She has learned much about the particulars about getting shows up and going, meeting artists and navigating the Old Rock School.

“It’s been a whirlwind, but in a good way,” she said. “I’ve still got a lot to learn. But I’ve got a great board. I’ve got a wonderful president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and the rest of the board. They’re all so willing to just jump in and be involved and help.

“They, too, like me, want so much for that foundation to be seen as the gem it is and to just expand on it. To reach out to as many people as we possibly can with as much as we possibly can, pertaining to the arts, to enrich their lives.”

The RSAF board of directors issued a release in which it praised the new director.

“(We feel) most fortunate in being able to recruit someone of Sharon’s artistic and administrative ability to help develop, promote and implement our traditional shows and educational programs to advance our mission,” the board said in the release.

The foundation fulfills its educational and cultural role in the community with children’s art classes, adult workshops, gallery shows by local artists, shows by students from local schools and performances of opera for elementary students.

To learn more about the Rock School Arts Foundation, visit bit.ly/2WOwA9L.

Justin Epley can be reached at jepley@morganton.com or 828-432-8943.

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