Art leaders reflect on ‘spectacular year’

Published 11:01 pm Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Pike County had an outstanding year for the arts in 2013.

Pike County had an outstanding year for the arts in 2013.

The Pike County Year of the Arts 2013 was nothing short of spectacular.

That’s the way Mack Gibson, chairman of the Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center board of directors, described the year 2013 in regards to the cultural arts in Pike County.

“I don’t know how you could describe the year any other way,” Gibson said. “We had a great and successful year in the arts all around the county. Troy, Brundidge. I just can’t say enough good things about all that’s going on with the arts in Pike County. It was just a great and spectacular year.”

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Gibson said that it would be hard to pinpoint any one outstanding event at the Johnson Center for the Arts.

“But, if I were pinned down, I would have to say that ‘Christmas at the Center’ was a headline event,” he said. “Everyone who attended loved it. The exhibition was outstanding. The Christmas trees were beautifully and creatively decorated by children and volunteers. The Christmas shop was a huge success and the Christmas ornaments by Tara Sartorius were incredible. She made a hundred and we sold them all. The Christmas dinner was wonderful and so well attended. So, monetarily, the Christmas events were a great success and a lot of fun.”

Gibson said the exhibitions throughout the year were outstanding but he singled out the Roots series.

“The Roots exhibits that showcase local talent generate so much interest,” he said. “Troy and Pike County have a history of talented artists and we continue to have a wealth of talent today. It’s amazing how many outstanding artists we have here in this small county.”

Gibson said the Johnson Center offers a wide variety of exhibitions from folk art to modern art and from paper cuttings to metal sculptures.

“And, across the street, we have The Studio where we have events including Thursday Night at the Studio where we everything from sock hops to workshops,” Gibson said. “One thing that we are most proud of is the Art Bridges teacher workshops. Teachers from all around the county come and learn new ways to incorporate the arts into the core curriculum. And, students – hundreds of them – benefit. And, of course, we are excited to bring students to the Johnson Center and expose them to the arts in a gallery setting. The arts are alive and well in Troy and Pike County.”

Ruth Walker, president of the Troy Arts Council, said, too, that Pike County is alive with the arts.

“I don’t think that the general population realizes how much Troy and Pike County have to offer in the way of the cultural and performing arts,” Walker said. “There is always something going on and often there is more than one cultural arts event going on at one time. I’m proud to be a part of the arts movement in Pike County.”

Walker said that the Troy Arts Council had a very successful season beginning with guitarist Michael Kelsey’s performance.

“Other than Shelia Jackson’s Christmas concert, ‘Riders in the Sky’ was probably our best-attended event,” she said. “Of course, the Shelia Jackson and Friends concert packed the Claudia Crosby Theater. It’s always one of the most popular events on our calendar.”

“Amahl and the Night Visitors” was also a popular performance.

“The matinee gave a lot of students the opportunity to see an opera and also enlarged the participation in the event,” Walker said. “Overall, the 2013 calendar of events was a great success. We look forward to the events planned for early 2014 that include the Minetti Quarter and the Kremlin Chamber Orchestra.

“In April we’ll have TroyFest and also Peter Oprisko will be back at the Crosby Theater. He will be remembered for his Frank Sinatra performance. This time, he will be doing songs from the Silver Screen and it should be fantastic.”

The TAC 2013-2014 calendar of events will close with the Southeast Alabama Community Band Concert in May.

“This has been a good year for us and we look forward to another great year in 2014,” Walker said. “Our 2014-2015 events are in the planning stage right now but already it’s shaping up to be one of the best years ever.”

The arts are also alive and well in Brundidge where the focus is on the folk arts.

“Down in Brundidge we like to say that we are cultured – buttermilk cultured,” said Johnny Steed, president of the Brundidge Historical Society producer of Alabama’s Official Folklife Play, “Come Home, It’s Suppertime.”

“I guess that you could say that we find something we like and stay with it,” Steed said.

“Back about 24 years ago, the Brundidge Historical Society sponsored a quilt show. We made $46 and invested that in a festival to honor our heritage in the peanut butter industry. The Peanut Butter Festival celebrated it 23rd year in 2013.”

In 2002, the BHS ventured into the arts with an original folklife play presented in the former city hall building that had been gutted by fire.

In November, the curtain came down on the 24th season of “Come Home.” The play has been successful in that all performances have been sold out. “Come Home” received the 2008 Governor’s Tourism Award.

“The year 2013 was a very successful one at the We Piddle Around Theater,” Steed said.

“Our folklife calendar of events opened the last weekend of January with the seventh annual Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival that featured four nationally acclaimed storytellers, Donald Davis, Sheila Kay Adams, Andy Irwin and Michael Reno Harrell.”

Steed said the storytelling festival was attended by more than 900 storytelling enthusiasts.

“Sheila Kay Adams and Michael Reno Harrell performed for nearly 800 students from the city, county and private schools. So, more than 1,700 got to hear some of the best professional storytellers in the country.”

“Come Home, It’s Suppertime” was performed at six sold-out performances in April plus a private performance for a local company. Suzie “Mama” Whaples was the featured teller at the June Buggin’ storytelling event and Donald Davis, the Dean of Storytelling, was the featured teller at the Chili Country Christmas event in December.

“All in all, 2013 was a great year,” Steed said. “We have a very dedicated group of volunteers including the cast, crew and musicians of ‘Come Home’ and BHS members who make it possible for us to have community theater and storytelling events. We thank them all.”

Just down the street from the We Piddle Around Theater, studio 116 brings a variety of performers to the 116 stage. On almost any given Saturday night, the stage lights go on and blues, jazz, country, popular, gospel or country performers take the stage.

Studio 116 also features an art gallery and a variety of art-related workshops or not. Often studio 116 features presentations on subjects such as Indian artifacts and belly dancing.

There’s always something going on at studio 116 on South Main Street. On New Year’s Eve everyone will be invited to the 2nd annual Peanut Drop as the community counts down to the year 2014.