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THE ART OF BEING SOUTHERN: JCA exhibition showcases regional creativity

“The art of being southern is practiced when we appreciate the geometry and aroma of a newly plowed field, the colors of flowers and the varied colors of the faces of our friends, the sounds, fury and abstraction of Saturday afternoon football; the contemporary movement of dance and the rhythmic twang of bluegrass, the emotion of spirituals backed by the power of the symphony, the earthy color of fresh greens, ripe tomatoes and candied yam; the portraits of ancestors, young and old; the satisfying tastes of ice cold sweet tea and warm pound cake and the works of original art created by Southern artists.”

Those are the descriptive words Wiley White used to describe “The Art of Being Southern” exhibition that opens on Wednesday at the Johnson Center for the Arts.

White, JCA exhibition coordinator, said the art of being southern is all things that come together to be the heartbeat of the South. 

“’The Art of Being Southern’ is a special exhibition because it is all about the South and who we are as Southerners and what makes us unique and what makes the South such an incredible place to live, work and play,” White said.

“The Art of Being Southern” is the first juried exhibition hosted by the Johnson Center for the Arts. Artists from five Southern states – Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee were invited to enter their work.

“We’re excited to provide artists from the Southeast the opportunity to exhibit their talent in our galleries,” said Bill Hopper, Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center board chair/CEO. “The artwork we’ve received is diverse and the artists have demonstrated their ability to meet and exceed the unique challenges required to participate in the exhibition.”

And, the invitation to enter “The Art of Being Southern” juried exhibition included a challenge. The actual name of the exhibition is “The Art of Being Southern, Fourteen by Fourteen.”

“The entire work, frame included, could only be 14×14 inches,” White said. “That was challenging and made for a really creative and interesting exhibit. We are excited about what the artists have been able to do within that limitation. There is such variety in their work. ‘The Art of Being Southern, Fourteen by Fourteen’ is masterful.”

Aaron Johnson, JCA preparatory/graphic artist, said it is “cool” seeing the different perspectives and styles of the 50+ southern artists.

“I’m honored to unify the different styles and perspectives into one show,” Johnson said. “I look forward to hearing what the community thinks about the work.”

Each artist has priced his or her work to sell and Johnson said each purchase will support the JCA as well as the artists.

White said 135 works were entered in the juried exhibition and 97 were accepted.

“We were excited to have a large number of local artists enter our first juried exhibition,

White said. “We welcome Jerry Johnson, Ruth Walker, Phoebe Porter, Carter Sanders, Jonah Enfinger, Marcus Dorsey, Heather Miller, Frank Thompson, Paige Smith Wyatt, Greg Skaggs, Meagan Berry, Jamie L. Toney, Larry Percy, Aaron Johnson, Pam Allen and Amy Findley Bowers and all of the artists who are sharing their talents with us.”

The juror for the exhibition is Richard Mills, professor emeritus of Fine Arts at Auburn University Montgomery.

“Richard has had more than 30 solo exhibitions and has exhibited in more than 40 group and invitational shows,” White said.  “It is an honor to have him as the juror for our first juried exhibition.”

The Art of Being Southern will open on Wednesday and run through December 30. An Awards Reception will be held from 6 until 8 p.m. Thursday, October 19, in the JCA Lower Level Galleries. The reception is open to the public.

The JCA is open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and until 3 p.m. on Saturday. Admission is free.