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helping to build an artistic foundation
Story by Audrey Hanes, Photo by Amy Long

The Foundation of Arts has played a vital role in enhancing the quality of life of the Jonesboro community through the arts since 1986. The downtown nonprofit organization relies heavily on dedicated volunteers like Joe Carr, who are as passionate about what goes on behind the scenes as they are about what is onstage.

Carr, the administrator of Southwest Church of Christ, has always been passionate about music and performance arts.“I became involved with theater in middle and high school,” said Carr. “With music, I sat down and taught myself how to play the piano at 10. I taught myself how to play the bass guitar when I was 14 and was in a band. My family is very musical, so that’s
always been a part of my life.”

Carr moved to Jonesboro more than five years ago with his wife, Lauryn, and they have since added 4-year-old Lucy and 1-year-old Levi to the family. He has been involved with the Foundation of Arts (FOA) since 2011; his first show was “The Little Mermaid,” and he has also performed onstage for “Schoolhouse Rock,” “A Christmas Carol,” “Miracle on 34th Street” and “Ring of Fire.”

“If it weren’t for the foundation, those kinds of stories wouldn’t be told,” said Carr of the importance of the FOA to the community. “When you’re watching a play, it’s not just about watching the performance; it’s about finding yourself in that story. …

“I think we are enriching the community. We are telling stories and sharing unique perspectives in the world through musicals and plays that wouldn’t be told otherwise. In general, art can be lost without anyone to appreciate it.”

On that note, the arts enthusiast says that audience attendance is often a struggle for some of the foundation’s performances.“During ‘Ring of Fire’ there was a moment where we felt like we had this amazing show that really told the story of the people in Northeast Arkansas – that trial by fire of growing up through adversity and finding yourself,” said Carr. “The saddest part about
the whole thing was that we felt like we had a great show and it wasn’t well attended. That was tough.”

Another vital aspect to community theater is behind-the-scenes work, which Carr also enjoys; he was the music director for both“Camp Rock” and “Harold and the Purple Crayon.” He says it’s also a great way for those who do not want to be on the stage to still be involved with the FOA and feel the pride and satisfaction of putting on something special for the audience.

“Theater is like an iceberg in that the majority of the body of work is unseen by the audience,” said Carr. “From building sets to making costumes, running sound and everything in between, the show could not happen were it not for the hours of service put in by so many who never stand on a stage to receive applause. In community theater, that fact is never more evident since there
would be no stage, costumes, makeup, props, sound or lighting without each one willing to do their part.”

Whether it’s behind the scenes or onstage, Carr loves the end result of performers coming together to enrich the community through performance art.

“It’s engrained in me; it’s a part of my personality,” he said. “It’s more about the collaboration with other people. You’re all working together to put on a performance piece that you couldn’t do by yourself. It’s like being a single musician in an orchestra. Together, it makes a beautiful sound.”

Next up for Carr and the FOA is the popular musical “Les Miserables,” which will run from June 28 through July 1.

“Les Mis is sure to be one of the best shows ever seen on The Forum stage thanks to the contributions of so many talented people and our extremely gifted director, Kristi Pulliam,” said Carr. “I get the joy of being in several scenes as a chorus member and have a handful of solos as an army officer, a factory worker and one of the bad guys named Montparnasse.”

For more information about The Foundation of Arts, visit foajonesboro.org, call 935-2726 or stop by 115 East Monroe Ave. in Downtown Jonesboro.