Two local groups earn state grants

Published 6:45 am Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Alabama State Council on the Arts awarded 114 grants totaling $323,560 at its December meeting in Montgomery. This round of grants will support arts in education, folk art, community, literature, performing and visual arts programs through Sept. 30, 2012.

Three grants totaling $11,400 were awarded to two Pike County arts organizations, the Brundidge Historical Society and the Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center Inc.

The Brundidge Historical Society received a folk traditions grant award of $3,500 for the Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival. The Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center received a $3,000 visual arts award for the Jean Lake/Pugh Windham exhibition and a $4,900 visual arts award for the Exhibition of the Art of Charlie Lucas.

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Lawrence Bowden, president of the BHS, said the state arts council grant award makes it possible to bring nationally acclaimed storytellers to Pike County. “Storytelling in Pike County has been successful and we are looking forward to another outstanding festival in January,” Bowden said. “We are able to bring some of the best storytellers in the country to our festival because of the support of the Alabama State Council on the Arts. We are very grateful to the Council for its continued support and for helping to bring about a storytelling revival in this part of the state.”

The 2012 Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival will feature Donald Davis, the Dean of Storytelling; Bil Lepp, a teller of outrageous tall-tales; Kevin Kling, whose autobiographical tales are as enchanting as they are true to life; and Suzi “Mama” Whaples, who is as authentic as Appalachia itself.

Brent Holmes, a homegrown talent, will bring the art of story-singing to elementary school children. His silly songs will delight the school children and his Redneck Poetry will tickle the funny bones of grown folks.

The Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival will be Jan. 27 and 28, 2012 at the We Piddle Around Theater in Brundidge and the Trojan Center Theater on the campus of Troy University. The Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center’s grant awards assist in funding exhibitions at the Johnson Center for the Arts.

Wiley White, grants and project coordinator, said thanks to the state arts council the Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center will be able to showcase the artwork of two highly acclaimed local artists and that of an Alabama folk artist with an international reputation.

“We are excited to be able to bring both of the exhibitions to the Johnson Center for the Arts,” White said. “Pike County artists, Jean Lake and Pugh Windham, live on through their incredible artwork and among those who knew them or knew of their work. “However, there are many people who aren’t familiar with them. The exhibition will introduce and reintroduce these two outstanding artists to our community and beyond.”

Jean Thompson Lake (1929-1976) was a Troy native and a self-taught artist who did much of her painting at her kitchen table.“Jean Lake is best described as a primitive artist,” White said. “Her artwork is very unique and very distinctive. When you see a Jean Lake painting, you recognize it immediately. She had a way of capturing time and place and her portraits captured the essence of her subjects.”

Robert Pugh Windham (1911-93) had no formal art training but gained national recognition with his woodcarvings. “Pugh Windham was from Ebenezer and he and Jean Lake were a part of Pike County’s art culture at the same time,” White said. “He did fabulous work. Two of his woodcarvings, ‘The Angel of Birth’ and ‘The Angel of Death’ are in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.”

The Jean Lake/Pugh Windham exhibition will be made up of artwork on loan from collectors of the artists’ work.

The exhibition will open April 2 and run through May 30 and in conjunction with TroyFest in April.

“The Exhibition of the Art of Charlie Lucas” is set for an August/November date at the Johnson Center for the Arts. Lucas, from Selma, is also known at the Tin Man in recognition of his “metal” work.

“Charlie Lucas is an African-American contemporary folk artist who travels widely giving gallery talks. He has lectured at Yale University and was an artist-in-residence in France,” White said. “He will be here three days for a gallery talk and to visit the schools.”

The State Arts Council makes grants to non-profit organizations, schools, universities, cities and a wide range of community groups. ASCA grants are matched by contributions from businesses, individuals, local government and earned income by the grantee. Arts programs, assisted by Council grants, have a track record of enhancing community development, education, cultural tourism and overall quality of life in virtually all regions of the state.

The Alabama State Council on the Arts is the official state arts agency of Alabama. The staff of the Council, directed by Al Head, administers the grants program and provides technical assistance in the arts planning and programming. The Council receives its support through an annual appropriation from the Alabama Legislature and funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.