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Nichols: Arts Council fills our town with culture

POSTED: April 17, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Gainesville is a very special place, a town with many traditions, a town rich in diverse cultural, artistic musical organizations. I have visited many cities here and overseas, and I do not know of any similar-sized town with such broad cultural activities.

We greatly benefit by having at the center of our cultural landscape The Arts Council, incorporated with the mission to enhance, educate and expand public interest in the arts in Northeast Georgia.

It was created back in 1970 with Lessie Smithgall as first president. It was staffed by volunteers who worked from a single desk. In 1980, it needed its own office headquarters and moved into a fire station.

It continued to grow, and in 1996, it moved into the Gainesville Midlands Railroad Depot, which has been renovated into the beautiful Smithgall Arts Center on Spring Street, certainly one of the most beautiful buildings in downtown Gainesville.

Today, it serves as a cultural coordinator to some 25 independent organizations. The oldest of these is the Quinlan Visual Arts Center, which began in 1949 as a Sketch Club and now operates the art gallery on Green Street that is most impressive.

Allied with the Arts Council are many groups that add much to the quality of life in our town. Some of these are the Elachee Nature Science Center, Gainesville Ballet Company, Northwinds Band, ProMusica Concert Series, Georgia Mountain Players and the Gainesville Theater Alliance.

This year, the Arts Council in its Pearce Series will bring some very special attractions to enrich our town. The first of these events is scheduled for the Arena in the Georgia Mountains Center on April 3, The Dallas Brass, a group of very talented brass and percussion musicians. Their program will include pieces from the classics, swing, Dixieland, Broadway and Hollywood.

This group frequently sends music to the music directors in the schools so that local students can practice and perhaps join the Dallas Brass in their performance, making a memory that will excite enthusiasm in the young musicians for the rest of their lives.

On May 16, the Arts Council will present a free concert by the 18 member group named The Jazz Guardians. They will play music from the big band era such as Ellington, Basie, Miller and Herman.

The last time I was in Shanghai, we went to an acrobatic performance that dazzled our eyes and ears. The Arts Council Pearce Series will bring the Golden Dragon Acrobats to Gainesville on June 9.

Chinese acrobats have performed before emperors, high officials and foreign guests. The Golden Dragon Acrobats will bring some of that culture from China to our town. Do not miss it.

On Aug. 1, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra will present a concert on the lawn of the Smithgall Arts Center. Last year, the ASO won three Grammy awards. You will see why those awards were given when you hear the lush sound of that symphony in the outdoor setting in the very heart of Gainesville. This is an annual event that brings many others to visit us for the performance.

In addition, the Arts Council has a number of children’s programs such as Arts in Schools, the Puppet Theatre, Cultural Arts Day Camps, Inner City Youth Arts Programs and many others.

I have lived in Gainesville only eight years, but those years are some of the most enjoyable years of my life because of so many organizations to which I belong or participate. I personally want to thank Gladys Wyant, executive director, and the staff of the Arts Council for bringing so much pleasure to so many of the people of Gainesville.

Thank you.

Tom Nichols is a retired college professor who lives in Gainesville; e-mail, wtomnichols@charter.net. His column appears frequently and on gainesville times.com.



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