By Angela Higginbotham
The Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach is a place for the community to create, understand, and experience the arts. Through exhibitions of local, regional and national artists, through exciting events and through quality arts classes, lectures and workshops, the Center brings art and people together in a special way.
Service to her community has always been an important goal for Arjola Miruku. A native of Albania who came to the United States when she was 12 years old, she returned home to Jacksonville after a successful career as a college professor at Texas Christian University and Texas Wesleyan University. Her plan was to give back to the community that had nurtured her.
“At the Center, our vision is to be a center for everyone to experience, appreciate, and better understand the arts,” said Cultural Center of Ponte Vedra Beach Executive Director Donna Guzzo. “Arjola is the perfect example of carrying not only our vision but our mission, to bring the arts into the life of the community through Arts Education, Exhibitions, and Outreach, and by honoring a Donor-Driven Philosophy. We believe access to the arts is vital to a vibrant community.”
Miruku’s ambitious plan resulted in the Play Academy of Arts (PLAY), a holistic approach to music. To augment this unique type of artistic education, Miruku identified the Cultural Center almost three years ago to be the home base for PLAY. Since her formative years were in Ponte Vedra, Miruku felt strongly that The Cultural Center is the heartbeat of Ponte Vedra. Therefore, despite the distance, she makes the long daily commute from Riverside because she feels that the Cultural Center’s mission aligns with her own.
“I’m not a stranger to this community. This community has given me a great deal, and now it’s my turn to give back and plant lasting seeds in the place that gave me so much,” Miruku said.
Miruku’s passion and hard work has resulted is a distinctive program now serving more than 30 students each week.
PLAY’s success has encouraged a fourth piano to be added at the Center: a Steinway Grand valued at more than $40,000. Although the piano ultimately is for sale, students have the opportunity to work and perform on this finest of instruments with a worldwide reputation for excellence. The Cultural Center is currently home to four pianos.
“The students are very fortunate to have such a caring teacher like Arjola,” said Guzzo. “She makes it a part of her everyday life to connect the community to the center. This is the fourth piano she’s arranged to have available at the center. This isn’t part of her job and she calls these students her kids.”
Photo courtesy The Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach
Arjola Miruku with the new Steinway Grand at The Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach.