Arts, Music Alive and Kicking in the Southeast Region
Theater, music and other cultural endeavors flourish here.
The southern Appalachian region has long been a place where artists, musicians and artisans thrive, and that’s truer now than ever.
From the Peacock Playhouse in western North Carolina to north Georgia’s Hiawassee Festival of Arts and the Bluff View Arts District of Chattanooga, Tenn., the performing, visual and folk arts are well represented here.
“We have quite a thriving arts community, because a lot of traditions like music and dance have been passed down from generation to generation,” says Pat Armstrong, program director for the Athens Area Council for the Arts in southeastern Tennessee. “The southern Appalachian region was previously a fairly isolated area, so music and dance were common forms of entertainment.”
Established in 1979, the Athens Area Council for the Arts is a nonprofit organization that exists to enhance the cultural life of the southeastern Tennessee community.
“We are the proud owners of a building called The Arts Center that includes a 150-seat black-box theater for concerts, community and children’s theater, fashion shows, and contra dances. We also have two exhibition galleries, classrooms and an Art Market gift shop where we sell works by local and regional artists,” Armstrong says.
The Arts Center’s galleries house traveling exhibits that change every two months, and its classes vary from doll and soap making to social dance and acrylic painting.
“We remind people that traditional arts here include painting and sculpture but also woodcarving and blacksmithing – things that were more utilitarian in the past and have been maintained by people who care,” she says.
Another Tennessee arts organization of note is Allied Arts of Greater Chattanooga, which provides general operating financial support to 16 arts organizations (including the Hunter Museum of American Art, Creative Discovery Museum and the Chattanooga Symphony & Orchestra) in Chattanooga. Allied Arts also awards grants to 49 arts organizations in Hamilton County, bringing its overall contributions each year to about $2 million.
“Our arts organizations contribute to the cultural tapestry of this community,” says Helen Davis Johnson, director of community programs for Allied Arts of Greater Chattanooga. “The Hunter Museum, for example, has a renowned permanent collection of art.” (See sidebar at right.)
Allied Arts also helps introduce school children to the arts. “Say a school wants to bring kids to see the symphony. We provide money for them to do that,” Johnson says. “We also have an arts education program for local elementary schools. There are no art teachers in the schools, so we help put artists in the schools. Teachers can use us as a resource for musicians, dancers and theater folks to come work with their kids.”
In western North Carolina, patrons of the arts find many offerings, such as The John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown and the Peacock Playhouse, home of the Licklog Players, in Hayesville. The Campbell Folk School teaches arts and crafts classes – including writing, quilting, weaving and storytelling – and the Licklog Players is a community theater group that has been performing musicals, comedies and dramas since 1978.
Every June, the Peacock Playhouse presents Peacock Pride, a children’s theater camp where kids learn about choreography, makeup and costumes, then put on a play at the end of the session.
North Georgia’s Young Harris College also has a robust theater program that produces several plays annually.