The Bowen Center for the Arts is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization founded in 1995 and incorporated in 1996. (Original corporate name Dawson County Arts Council DCAC).
The Old Rock School was originally built in 1935 using funds the County received from F.D. Roosevelt’s PWS (Public Works Administration) and CWA (Civil Works Administration). The stones used were from local quarries. During this era, the building housed the Department of Vocational Agriculture, a Canning plant and a Mattress Factory. For 25 cents, locals could purchase a new mattress if they could haul it away. This building, located on the Dawson County school campus, was also used for several classes such as choir, band, shop and home economics.
When a new high school was built in the 1998, there was talk of tearing down the old building. Locals sprang into action, including Arts Council President, Grace Privette, who wanted the building for an art center. With the help of the community and four major donors, they remodeled the “Old Rock School” for cultural arts. The Ralph and Ludy Bowen Center for the Arts opened it’s first art exhibit in September of 2000. In 2001, the Bowen was awarded the Preservation Award for Excellence in Rehabilitation from the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. These events marked the beginning of ongoing programs and events to enrich the cultural and artistic spirit of Dawson County and North Georgia.
The Bowen received from the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation the 2001 Preservation Award for Excellence in Rehabilitation for its restoration of the ‘Old Rock School,’ a 5,000 square foot building that for many years was part of the Dawson County School system. Local Dawson County residents built it of locally quarried rock as a part of the Dawsonville High School complex in the 1930’s. In the 1940’s the major part of the school was destroyed by fire. After a town meeting sponsored by the Dawson County Historical and Genealogical Society and months of community planning., the Dawson County Arts Council, Inc. presented to the Dawson County Board of Education its proposal to assume responsibility for the Old Rock School in October of 1999.
The rehabilitation project cost was approximately $200,000. The work began in January of 2000 and was completed in September of 2000. The “Old Rock School”, now known as the Ralph & Ludy Bowen Center for the Arts was dedicated on September 7th and opened with its first Art Exhibit on October 1, 2000. These events mark the beginning of an ongoing program of events to enrich the cultural and artistic spirit of Dawson County. In October of 2000, the building became the permanent home of the Arts Council and was subsequently named the Bowen Center for the Arts.
Besides being beautiful with historic charm, it is also one of the most active community arts centers in Georgia. The mission of The Bowen Center for the Arts is to provide a canvas for creating, appreciating, and participating in the arts for people of all ages in Georgia and the Southeast who seek high-quality, unique experiences through all media art shows, museum-quality exhibitions, art classes/workshops, social and educational luncheons, and concert performances. The Dawson County Arts Council, Inc. dba The Bowen Center for the Arts is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization and thrives through donations made by art and historic patrons and sponsors, Bowen Members, business and civic groups and fundraising efforts. Consider being a part of one of the most active community art centers in Georgia!