Johnson Center awarded $100K Monday

Published 10:02 pm Monday, March 15, 2010

The Johnson Center for the Arts, a part of the Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center, received a donation in the amount of $100,000 Monday from the Troy Board of Education through funds made possible by Sen. Wendell Mitchell.

These funds will be used to implement an instructional in-service program to train teachers to integrate the arts into their lesson plans. The funds will also be used to produce proper storage materials for the upcoming photography exhibit titled “Looking Through the Lens: 100 Years of Photography,” featuring the works of Holman Johnson of Troy and D.L. Hightower of Clayton.

Mitchell said he once heard it said that people don’t give to projects, they give to people.

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“I’m doing a little of both here today,” he said. “The leadership of this project has been outstanding and I appreciate the personal relationships that I’ve had with so many who are involved in the project — Mack Gibson who is a longtime friend. Mayor Jimmy Lunsford, who it seems like has been here always. Dr. Eloise Kirk, whose idea it was for the project. Dr. Linda Felton-Smith who is a giant in education and the staff of the Johnson Center and the board members.”

Mitchell capsuled his thoughts on the “Looking Through the Lens” exhibition with a quote from Ronald Reagan, “No education is complete without an appreciation of the arts.”

“I truly believe that,” Mitchell said.

Mack Gibson, chairman of the Arts Center board, expressed appreciation to the Troy Board of Education and Mitchell for making the donation possible.

“Two years ago, Jerry Vinson loaned a book to Eloise Kirk, one of our board members titled ‘Remembering a Vanishing World’ by Jerry’s uncle D.L. Hightower,” Gibson said. “The book contains black and white photographs of the agrarian society of Barbour County and the surrounding areas beginning in the 1920s and through the 1960s. Eloise believed that this book is indeed a hidden treasure and could become a wonderful exhibit for the Johnson Center for the Arts.”

Kirk showed the book to Richard Metzger, Johnson Center executive director, and suggested that he consider Hightower’s work for exhibit. Metzger was already aware of the photographic works of Holman Johnson of Troy, which were housed in the Troy Public Library. Johnson’s photographs spanned a period from 1920 through 1998.

Thus was born the idea of celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Johnson Center for the Arts, which is housed in the former Troy Post Office, with both the Hightower and Johnson exhibits.

“Shadron Graham, a member of our staff contributed the name for the exhibit, ‘Looking Through the Lens – A Hundred Years of Photographs,’” Gibson said.

Kirk and Wiley White, Arts Center development director, made up the grant committee that developed a proposal to secure funds for the exhibit and submitted the proposal to Mitchell.

“We are aware of Sen. Mitchell’s contributions and his interest in the education of the children of his district and in all Alabama,” Gibson said. “The ‘Looking Through the Lens’ exhibit will be an educational experience with history and language arts lesson plans designed for third, fifth and eighth grade students.”

The exhibit will premier in the Johnson Center on August 3, 2010 and run through Nov. 13, 2010.

At the close of the Johnson Center exhibition, the exhibit will be made available as a free traveling exhibit titled ‘The Walking Wendell Mitchell History Lesson.’”

“Senator Mitchell has been a great supporter of our Center from the onset, not only with financial assistance, but with his presence at many of our programs. We deeply appreciate what he has done and is doing for us as we continue to provide art education in a first class art museum for the citizens, especially children, of this town, county and surrounding counties,” said Mack Gibson, Chairman, Board of Directors. “As evidenced by this donation, Senator Mitchell continues to provide leadership, support and a strong vision for District 30. Through his ongoing support in bringing outstanding art and educational programs to the area help to ensure that the Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center mission of Cultural enrichment of the lives of all citizens through exposure to and education in the arts is fulfilled,” said Richard Metzger, Executive Director, Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center.