A few days ago, I posted about the demise of the Creative Center of 4 West in the Columbus Center; click here to see it. The Creative Center, to my understanding, was sort of a ancillary/affiliated group of the Four West Art League. The Four West Art League still exists – it’s just the “Creative Center” part that is no longer operating.
Alma Winberry posted the following on Facebook about the situation: “From a dream created a creative art center that served the community for 10 years. Dashed are those days. At midnight I returned their keys so fake artists can see their sexual offenders in the hallways of the Columbus Center while making red construction paper hearts and the public can hear of the client’s plight of predators as the former art wing becomes a reception area for the handicapped under false pretenses of “art therapy” without certification or legitimate accreditation.”
I knew that there had to be more to the situation, and I talked briefly with Don, the owner of the Columbus Center; he explained that he and his organization are strong supporters of arts and artists, and took strong exception to Winberry’s assertions.
He also posted the following message on the Facebook page:
The Four West Art League located on the 4th floor of The Columbus Center is a dynamic group of talented local artists. We have and always will welcome and support artists as an important part of the community of Great Falls.
And although we appreciate Alma Winberry’s contributions to The Four West Art League and will miss her business, which was The Creative Center of Four West Art League, the good will of of all of our tenants is our focus.
The Columbus Center has always striven to provide a safe and comfortable environment for our tenants and their clients. The eclectic mix of good people and businesses are what out tenants say they enjoy most about creating and growing their businesses at The Columbus Center.
He also noted that the art therapists in the Columbus Center work primarily with handicapped and/or developmentally-disabled people, often children and teens, which certainly aligns with what I know of art therapy. I don’t know if the art therapists are licensed or credentialed as such, but I am pretty sure that they are helping people through art, and also that the people that they help (and their families) appreciate what they do. If anyone has info on their licensing/credentialing, please let me know.
In addition, Don asserted – and I believe – that there is no influx of “predators” or “sexual offenders” in the Columbus Center. There are numerous counselors, therapists, and psychologists who practice in the building, and some of them do have clients that are victims of sexual assault/rape/violence – as is to be expected in any professional medical building. He also noted – and I also believe – that it is possible that some counselors may be providing therapy to people convicted of sexual crimes.
However! Do I think that that the Columbus Center is a place where sexual predators are roaming the halls searching for victims? Absolutely not. I wouldn’t bat a proverbial eye if (for instance) my daughter or any of her friends were in the Columbus Center for any reason (eating at Jah-T’aime Jamaican restaurant, or displaying/viewing art, going to the Curves gym, researching genealogy, etc). It is a safe place, and for Winberry to suggest otherwise is simply bewildering – in the vein of Facebook warriors who clutch their pearls at darn near every little thing, terrified that the Latest Bad Thing (hello Momo!) is lurking around every corner.
Don also shared with me a letter that he sent to all artist tenants of the Columbus Center; here is an excerpt:
We want to apologize for the false and libelous accusations Alma made regarding some of our therapist tenants. When a concern about the use of the common area on the 4th floor was brought to our attention, together, we came up with a solution quickly. For some reason, despite our good relationship and communication in the past, Alma choose not to discuss any other concerns with us but rather spread lies and contention with anyone who would listen. This goes against the very goodwill that art and friendship fosters and could no longer go on.
In conclusion: I don’t think there is any problem with what is going on the Columbus Center, except for one disgruntled former tenant.