2014 in Review: The Arts

Published 8:33 pm Thursday, December 25, 2014

Scores of Pike Countians attended a reception welcoming members of the Alabama State Council on the Arts on Wednesday evening. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Scores of Pike Countians attended a reception welcoming members of the Alabama State Council on the Arts on Wednesday evening.

The arts.

It’s a phrase that evokes thoughts of everything from music to sculpture, painting to poetry, storytelling to design.

And in Pike County, the arts are core part of our community, enriching our lives; inspiring us; bringing us in contact with the world around us.

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And, like so many years before, 2014 was a banner year for celebrating the arts and set the stage for more excitement to come in the new year.

Troy Arts Council

For the Troy Arts Council 2014 was a banner year, not only with a variety of outstanding public performances at the Claudia Crosby Theater but also in several schools throughout the county.

“Our 2014 season calendar was one of the Troy Arts Council’s best,” said John Jinright, presenter chair. “And, we are just as excited about the calendar for next year. We have some big surprises in store that include several amazing international acts. It will be a calendar filled with great performances – and ones that you would expect only in big cities.”

Jinright said the TAC is committed to bringing top quality performing arts entertainment to Troy and Pike County. The art council’s 2014 calendar was testimony to that.

In November the Vivace Music Group performed at Goshen High School prior to its performance at the Crosby Theater.

“Vivace combines opera and pop/classical music and the group was well received at Goshen High School, as it was at the Crosby Theater,” Jinright said. “In October, Sally Mayes, Broadway Babe was in town. She conducted an incredible workshop with young actors and singers in the community.”

Jinright said Mayes is a “topnotch” professional, who told it like it is.

“She got the young people over their nervousness and had them up and singing,” he said. “She was an inspiration. She was very popular with the audience at the Cosby Theater.

The Harlem Strings performed at Charles Henderson High School and they were impressed by the reception they received.

“The Harlem Strings was not accustomed to playing in a gymnasium so they didn’t know want to expect,” Jinright said. “But the students were quiet and respectful and appreciative of their music, just as the audience at the Crosby Theater was.”

The Shelia Jackson and Company Holiday Concert at the Crosby, once again, packed the place.

“The balcony had to be opened to accommodate everyone,” Jinright said. “Year after year, we can count on Shelia and the singers and musicians that join her for a great holiday concert.”

Looking ahead to the first half of the TAC Season Calendar, the Texas Guitar Quartet will be at the Crosby Theater for a public performance in February. The TAC will host the Texas Guitar Quartet in support of the Classical Guitar Festival at Troy University.

“The young classical guitarists will stick around and teach young people from all over the state who come to be a part of the workshops,” Jinright said. “People from the community will be invited to participate in the workshops and to attend several mini-concerts that will be presented.”

The Vienna Choir Boys will return to Troy by popular demand in March. Jinright said the TAC is fortunate to have these outstanding young men in concert.

The Vienna Choir Boys had scheduled concerts in Atlanta and New Orleans, so the TAC realized having the choir back in Troy was a possibility. Jinright said the board wanted him to pursue the opportunity.”

“In May, we’ll have the Southeast Alabama Community Band Concert and we always appreciate the community’s support of and love for this group of fine musicians,” Jinright said. “I guess what is most rewarding for the TAC is the community’s support of the performing arts and the interest in the arts shown by the art and music teachers in the local schools and their students. The arts are making a huge difference in our community

and the TAC is blessed to be a part of bringing performing arts entertainment to our community and arts education entertainment to our schools.”

Johnson Center for the Arts

If Vicki Pritchett were any more excited about the Johnson Center for Art’s 2014 programming and its outlook for the future, she would sprout wings and fly.

“We had an amazing year at the Johnson Center and are looking forward to an even greater year in 2015 with our ‘New Decade of Vision,’” Pritchett said. “We are extremely excited about the outstanding support of our community and the interest our local schools have in the arts and so appreciative as we move into the ‘New Decade of Vision.’ The goal of this vision is to make the Johnson Center at true arts center that features, not only the visual arts but the music, dance and theater as well.”

The year 2014 propelled the Johnson Center into the “new decade” with a variety of arts events and activities.

“We started off 2014 with Jamie Grimes’ exhibition of sculptures made from reclaimed plastic,” Pritchett said. “The exhibition was really interesting and everyone enjoyed it. People who had not been to the arts center before turned out of this exhibit.”

Student art was highlighted prior to and during TroyFest. The artwork of the 2013 TroyFest “Best of Show” winner, Mary Ann Casey was featured. The artist’s reception was one of the best attended ever.

“In the spring, we kicked off our membership campaign with a luncheon at the Johnson Center,” Pritchett said. “We recognized our present and former board members who led us during our first decade and introduced the new board members who will lead us during our new Decade of Vision.”

Once again, the Johnson Center’s ArtBridges teachers’ summer workshop was a success with pen and ink artist Don Stewart as the guest artist.

“During the workshop, Don instructed the teachers on ways to integrate art into the curriculum and he returned for in-school visits in the fall,” Pritchett said. “Don’s artwork and his personality made and impact here in Pike County. The students and the community came to see his exhibit and, seeing it, they were even more amazed by the work he does.”

In September, the Alabama State Council on the Arts held its quarterly meeting in Troy and, Pritchett said the Council members were impressed with how important the arts are to Troy and Pike County.

“At the dinner meeting, we were able to showcase the perfuming arts with presentations by Troy University faculty members and students and members of the cast of “Come Home, It’s Suppertime,” she said.

The Johnson Center initiated its “Artist Talks” program with a presentation by face jug collector Robert Gilliam in the fall. The arts center held its first ever fall art competition for students and plans are to make the competition an annual event.

“Dr. Doug Hawkins’ European Masters Collection exhibit was one of the most popular exhibits that we have ever had,” Pritchett said. “The exhibit was phenomenal. Those who attended were astounded that the artwork of these many European masters could be viewed in Troy, Alabama. It was amazing.”

The art center’s Christmas Tree exhibit and student choir performances, coupled with Susan Berry’s Nutcracker exhibit in the upper galleries and the European Masters exhibit on the lower level brought in more than 1,000 visitors in a month’s time.

“This year has been extremely successful for us,” Pritchett said. “More people are knowing where we are and what we are doing. In 2015, we are planning exhibits, like the wildlife exhibit that includes a taxidermy display that will attract people to the Johnson Center who have never been before. We believe once people come and see what we are doing and how important the arts art to all of us, they will keep coming back.”

Pike Piddlers

When the Brundidge Historical Society went out on a limb and initiated a storytelling festival in rural Pike County in 2007, a lot of eyebrows were raised. But the sponsoring Brundidge Historical Society’s success with its original folklife play, “Come Home, It’s Suppertime,” was all the encouragement it need to expand what it was doing in the area of folklife presentations.

“When we decided in 2002 to put on a folklife play in Brundidge, we didn’t know what to expect,” said Lawrence Bowden, a charter member of the cast and president of the BHS. “We were just going to do a play and that was about as far as our thinking went. But people enjoyed it and kept wanting to come back so we kept doing it. Then, several members of our group thought that, if people enjoyed what we were doing with the play, they would probably enjoy storytelling, too.”

The first Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival featured Donald Davis, the Dean of Storytelling, and those who came experienced the magic of the spoken word.

“This year was our 13th Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival and Donald Davis has been the headliner at everyone of them,” Bowden said. “He was joined by Bil Lepp, Barbara McBride-Smith and Dolores Hydock in January and it was an outstanding festival. Attendance for the four storytelling concerts was nearly 1,000. Also, 800 students attended concerts at the schools and Troy University.

The year 2014 opened the 13th season of “Come Home, It’s Suppertime.” The folklife play, which received the 2008 Governor’s Tourism Award, played to six sold-out audiences in April and another six sold-out audiences in November.

“We are so appreciative that people continue to ‘Come Home’ and enjoy it,” Bowden said. “The play is set during the Great Depression era and tells the story of Hard Times and the people who lived them. Most of the time, the audiences are made up of people who remember those times or have heard stories about them from their parents or grandparents. But now, young adults, teenagers and children are coming and enjoying the play and learning about folklife and folkways.”

The BHS was invited to present several vignettes from the play for the Alabama State Council on the Arts when the Council was in Troy for its quarterly meeting in September.

“We appreciated the Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center’s invitation to perform at the dinner,” Bowden said. “This was an opportunity for the Council to see a sampling of what we do as ‘Alabama’s Official Folklife Play.’”

The BHS sponsors several other follklife presentations during the year.

“In June, we have “June Buggin’” which is actually a women’s luncheon event,” Bowden said. “June Buggin’ is a magical and unpredictable as the flight of a June bug. This year, Carmen Deedy, a storyteller who grew up Cuban in Decatur, Georgia, was our featured performer. She has been to our storytelling festival several times and she’s outstanding.”

Bowden said the BHS also hosts the Chili County Christmas in December.

“We started our Christmas event years ago with a Christmas radio program broadcast live on WBTF. The cast did a play one year and then we gave over to Chili Country Christmas, which is a storytelling event with homemade chili and all the trimmings.”

This year’s Christmas storytelling featured Appalachian master storyteller Michael Reno Harrell, who is also a singer/songwriter.

“Michael has been to our Festival a couple of times and he was, as always, funny and entertaining,” Bowden said. “We’ll follow the same format in 2015 and, hopefully, the play and the storytelling concerts will continue to attract those who enjoy the folk arts.”