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Via Colori to resume

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New Beginnings Family Services awarded vacant license for festival

By Marty Finley

The Via Colori street painting festival in downtown Elizabethtown is on again.

New Beginnings Family Services, which provides therapeutic foster care for abused, abandoned and neglected children, has been awarded the festival’s licensing rights, vacated in January by Silverleaf Sexual Trauma Recovery Services, formerly the Advocacy and Support Center.

Dusty June Finch, community outreach coordinator for New Beginnings, said the agency’s board of directors was in the process of signing and finalizing the agreement.

Silverleaf severed ties with the festival because of budgetary constraints but rankled former artists and abuse survivors who had an emotional connection to the event.

Finch actively pursued the vacant license after Silverleaf relinquished it and said Via Colori’s Rick Compton sent the licensing agreement Tuesday morning. Finch said Compton credited New Beginning’s passion for the event and worthy cause as reasons for awarding them the license.

New Beginnings serves “the kids that have been forgotten,” Finch said.

Finch intends to keep the one-day festival on the second Saturday of September, pending approval for a city permit to close Main Street downtown. It will remain a one-day festival for now, she added.

“I don’t think we could shut down the square for two whole days,” she said.

But there will be changes to the format. Finch said she wants to develop an art appreciation aspect and attract local musicians and a car show. She also wants to hold art classes in advance of the festival to help those who want to paint on the street but have never done so before.

And she said it will not be restrictive but rather open to all community organizations who want to partner with Via Colori and have their voices heard.

“It will be more family oriented,” she said.

Artists have converged since 2010 on downtown Elizabethtown to create customized drawings on the street, which are sponsored by businesses, corporations and individuals.

Finch has said she will look to build numerous community partnerships in order to host an event that will become an annual destination for visitors. She also hopes Silverleaf honors its word and lends its support to the festival.

“I’d like to hear their feedback,” she said. “That’s important.”

Carey Aldridge, treasurer for Silverleaf’s board of directors, said she was happy to hear the news.

“I can say without hesitation that we wish them the very best and that we are glad the festival will go on for the community at large,” Aldridge said.

Silverleaf’s board of directors voted last month to sever ties with Via Colori because of ongoing funding concerns facing more than a dozen rape crisis centers around the state because of the financial burden caused by the Kentucky Retirement System, according to Silverleaf officials.

Unless the legislature intervenes, according to Silverleaf, centers could face funding cuts up to 38 percent by 2015, which could force employee layoffs and elimination of critical services for its clients, 14 percent of whom are children.

Executive Director Nikki Ellis last week said Silverleaf is glad the festival brought healing to so many, but Via Colori, which was designed as a fundraiser for the center, is generating little to no revenue. Because of that, Ellis said, their primary focus must be on maintaining client services in the eight-county region it serves and keeping its doors open.

The agency was criticized for failing to uphold a promise to hear directly from Via Colori supporters at a meeting originally scheduled for next week. Finch had offered to help organize and pay for the festival to continue.

Silverleaf officials said nothing could have been said to stop the board from making the decision.

Finch said Tuesday supporters of Via Colori were holding their breath until the license was awarded.

“Everybody’s thrilled,” she said.

Jill Ashlock, an abuse survivor and foster parent with New Beginnings, said she plans to work closely with the agency to make Via Colori bigger and better than ever.

“I have to applaud New Beginnings for their colossal accomplishment with this,” she said. “This is huge for our county.”

Marty Finley can be reached at 270-505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.