Tallahatchie Arts Council moving into fifth decade with new plans


Most Union Countians are probably aware we have the Tallahatchie Arts Council but they may not remember that it began more than 40 years ago.

A group of six held the first meeting, wanting to create an atmosphere in which artists could be encouraged to create, their work could be shown, a sense of fellowship could be created among artists and craftsmen and children could be exposed to the fine arts.

The name Tallahatchie Arts Council was selected at a meeting Jan. 17, 1975, signifying that the group was not just for New Albany and the dragonfly was chosen as the symbol because of the importance of its life cycle to the area.

The organization has functioned quietly over the years but now the group is wanting to expand and be more visibly active.

In its early years, TAC often emphasized drama, since this was before the birth of the Tallahatchie River Players.

John Maxwell’s “Oh, Mr. Faulkner, Do You Write,” “Dracula,” “M*A*S*H’ and visits by The Red Balloon Players were examples.

TAC also sponsored a community chorus presentation of Handel’s “The Messiah” several years.

Now, the council is involved in smaller, but more wide-ranging projects including visiting artists, various arts classes for adults and children and even programs to provide hints on marketing one’s art.

Meetings are almost always held at the Art House, 205 Highland St. at 6 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month unless otherwise specified. Information is available in the TAC newsletter, on their Facebook page and through email.

TAC has also become a more social organization with several non-arts events each year.

“In 2014 we had a great TAC Tacky Christmas Party!” President Karen Tuck said. “Everyone needed to bring a dish and a very tacky gift for our Dirty Santa Exchange. We had so much fun, we had it again in 2015…another fun event!”

Tuck says the best and largest meeting we had was last June at their "Cook-Out-In" meeting. “The old (GM&O) bridge had just been dropped next to the Art House so we needed to know about that, and I wanted to present the idea of our new Pottery Class Course and plans to buy the kiln,” she said.

The purchase of a kiln has been their largest arts venture recently.

“Once we got the kiln, we started firing our own pottery from the last few pottery classes. Then a couple of us made some more things on our own and fired them,” she said. “I want people to know that we have the kiln and they can contact me to use it to fire their pottery. They can get in touch with me on TAC email.”

The email address is tallahatchiearts@gmail.com. Each kiln firing costs $25. “We may have charges for separate pieces in the future, but right now we are just charging for a full firing,” Tuck said. “They will need to have me or Lee Ann Thompson load and unload the kiln. It is very delicate inside.”

Tuck said Thompson, who is the art teacher at New Albany High School, has had her classes of 90 students make several clay pieces and she fired them all at the Art House. She will have a student exhibit in the next few months to show off their great creations. Gifted teacher Tracy Vanisi has also used the kiln for her classes. “This was another one of the main reasons we wanted to have the kiln…it will bring so many artistic opportunities to the children of the community,” she said.

“While shopping in our community, I occasionally have the opportunity to mention ‘pottery classes’ to someone and I have found a lot of interest…in people you wouldn't normally think would have an interest,” Tuck said. “That's why we want our classes to be community-wide. My initial hope in starting the pottery class course, pushing to buy the kiln, and keeping up the pottery interest is to get the name of the Tallahatchie Arts Council out and well-known in the community. There is a big plan to come, but I can't let that out yet!”

Plans call for pottery classes to begin in March. “We will announce them in the newspaper and on Facebook and people may register and pay at the museum,” she said. “Payment must be received with the registration so that we can purchase enough supplies ahead of time. The first classes will be for adults, but we will definitely have classes for children and we also plan to offer pottery as part of birthday celebrations there. Again, these will all be publicized.”

The Arts Council was responsible for all of the exhibit booths down by the river at the Tallahatchie RiverFest last year, especially including the Juried Art Festival where TAC gave the $1000 in cash prizes. With TAC being in charge of the exhibits…that meant sending out information by email, emailing links to the application, receiving the applications and payment, organizing booth locations, communication with vendors, being there at 6 a.m. to direct vendors and their setups, manning the TAC booth to help out vendors all day, and directing them breaking down and leaving. “It was several weeks of hard work and a long day!! We had a great group of dedicated members to make it all happen,” she said.

The Arts Council year goes from January to December and annual dues are $25. All events are free to members, but there are times when members are asked to bring food, drinks, paper goods, etc.

Although the group has good support, paid membership is fairly low and they hope more public attention will help with this.

Officers for 2016 are president, Karen Tuck; treasurer, Bethany Dalton; secretary, Evelyn Mason; board members: Rebecca Browning, Jill Smith, Jeanette Stone, Karen Tuck, Bethany Dalton and Evelyn Mason.

“I feel we have been steady in building up the strength of our organization. We have had very successful events, our programs are steadily becoming more high-end, and we already have plans for a strong, interesting and fun year,” Tuck said. “We are continuing to renovate it (the Art House) and have plans to paint more of the interior in the coming month or so and build a few things in there. There are just so many more opportunities to offer the community there and we are continuing to progress!”

Coming events in addition to pottery and other classes include "Dinner by the Tracks" with "Art After Dark." Plans are for it to be open to the public and used as a fundraiser for TAC. The extra "perk" could be a little piece of pottery made by TAC and fired in their kiln.

For more information or to receive the newsletter, email tallahatchiearts@gmail.com.

Tuck stresses that you do not have to be a per­former in the arts to become a part of the organization. As indicated in the partial sampling of their activities, there should be something to interest anyone interested in any of the arts.

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