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Style · April 3, 2018

Bluemont Concert Series folding after 42 years

Contributed Photo
For 35 consecutive summers, Bluemont brought the Pan Masters Steel Orchestra to Culpeper Street for a concert.
File Photo/Cassandra Brown
Audience members brought blankets, folding chairs and picnics to the lawn of the Warren Green Building to watch the summer concerts.
In an ongoing attempt to maintain our popular cultural programs, Bluemont has been actively engaged in reactive downsizing for the past 10 years. Traditional funding from state and local government appropriations has been steadily reduced from $263,000 in fiscal 2008 to $59,434 in fiscal 2018.
The Bluemont Concert Series, which brought summer musical performances and other arts programs to Fauquier County for 35 years, will fold June 30.

The non-profit group, which started with barn dances in Loudoun County, grew to a diverse organization with programs throughout central and western Virginia.

Since 1982, Bluemont had staged popular Saturday night concerts during the summer in downtown Warrenton.

Peter Dunning founded the group in 1976 and served almost four decades as its executive director. His daughter, Lilly Dunning Widman succeeded Mr. Dunning several years ago.

From its office in Berryville, Bluemont also organized First Night Warrenton, a family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration, in cooperation with town and county governments and local sponsors.

But, the organization constantly struggled to make ends meet. Over the last decade state and local government funding for the arts nosedived, the organization said in a press release (below).

The summer concerts, which once attracted as many as 1,000 to Culpeper Street, drew much smaller audiences in recent years. The audience for First Night also declined markedly last year.

In addition to the big events, Bluemont brought visiting artists to Fauquier schools and nursing homes.

The press release, issued Tuesday afternoon:


Bluemont Announces Termination of Programs 

It is with a heavy heart that the Bluemont Concert Series Board of Directors announces the termination of Bluemont programs and administrative operations, effective June 30, 2018.Following a series of planning sessions over the past 18 months, the Board decided that the non-profit Bluemont Concert Series as currently organized lacked the financial footing to continue.

Since 1976, Bluemont's unique public/private partnership has been a part of the cultural fabric of our 34 Virginia communities. It has presented more than 9,648 cultural programs in local schools, nursing homes, special events and summer concerts to 3.2 million families and visitors. Bluemont's extraordinary cultural legacy was built on the generous support of local government and private donor partners as well as the participating communities it served. We are immensely proud of our history over the past 41 years and treasure the many wonderful memories created by quality entertainment and cultural enrichment that we were so fortunate to present.

In an ongoing attempt to maintain our popular cultural programs, Bluemont has been actively engaged in reactive downsizing for the past 10 years. Traditional funding from state and local government appropriations has been steadily reduced from $263,000 in fiscal 2008 to $59,434 in fiscal 2018. 

Bluemont strived to maintain community programs while offsetting the funding deficit each year by cutting costs and seeking other sources of revenue. While we continue to believe that music and art are critical to a well-rounded education, and vital to our beloved communities, our programs require resources to operate. Despite a storied forty plus year history, and ongoing conscientious budgeting, our resources have been exhausted.

Effective January 1, 2018, the Bluemont Board of Directors has with great reluctance released our award winning Executive Director, Lily Dunning Widman and her staff. The Board greatly appreciates Ms. Widman's outstanding professional service and we wish her much success in her future endeavors. She and her staff gave countless hours to make Bluemont truly special and their commitment to excellence is to be commended.

Bluemont began in 1976 as a series of concerts and old time country dances in the Bluemont community but grew to include regional cultural programming in many Virginia communities such as our Artists In Education, Healthcare Outreach in nursing homes, and various other music, theatre, and dance special events. Bluemont stepped in to fill this important need when school budgets in the cultural programs were non-existent. We built support for the programs through the years and have been blessed to share our passion for the arts with young and old alike.

Programs like Bluemont do not exist without leaders and visionaries. The Bluemont Board's recognition and appreciation for our many volunteers and sponsors cannot be adequately expressed in words. We are mindful that without their commitment and energy, Bluemont would have never existed and flourished for over 40 years. They have given more to the heart, soul and vitality of Virginia than they know.

It has been an honor and a privilege to fulfill the Bluemont mission by helping to build our cultural programs for the people in our communities. We thank everyone for their support over the years, and will continue to treasure fond memories of families singing, dancing and sharing art in their own community.

Bluemont’s Board and volunteers are working hard to do the significant work involved with closing a 40 year institution. In order to make a graceful exit the organization has obligations to fulfill and a small debt to retire. Bluemont must raise $7,500 to close the doors gracefully and meet all obligations. Please considering making a donation today- visit our gofundme page at: http://www.gofundme.com/bluemont or mail a check to P.O. Box 802, Berryville, VA 22611. Every gift counts.
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