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Without rain, concert shines: Banks and Shane fill out Arts Council series
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The twang of guitars and rich harmonized vocals finally rang out across the Arts Council Smithgall Arts Center field late Sunday afternoon as approximately 700 Banks and Shane fans clustered around tables to enjoy the rescheduled concert.

"We were all sitting out here when a huge thunderstorm rolled in," said Gladys Wyant, executive director of the Arts Council.

The third and final event of the Arts Council’s 10th Summer MusicFest series was originally scheduled for Labor Day weekend, Wyant said, but before the band was able to strike a chord, the audience was scrambling for cover from the rain.

But this time around, it was all sunshine and smiles as the five-piece Americana-bluegrass band kept the crowd in high spirits with its nostalgic whistling to the theme of "The Andy Griffith Show," among other old-time favorites.

"They’re down-home regular guys," said Chrissy Derrer, volunteer coordinator for the Arts Council. Organizers said that the band from Atlanta was gracious in allowing the event to be rescheduled.

"This is their first time with us," Wyant said. "But they’re no strangers to Gainesville."

She said some fans came from Athens and Atlanta to enjoy the concert.

Derrer said that when people come to an Arts Council event, they often don’t realize that the proceeds benefit the fine arts in the community.

"We are a nonprofit organization. We are not a city-county organization," Wyant said. "And we depend on membership to support us."

Not only do proceeds cover the costs of Arts Council productions and music series, but they also support the arts in every school in Gainesville and Hall County, Wyant said. The Arts Council works in conjunction with local Parent Teacher Associations to take artists into classrooms and school assemblies to allow students the opportunity to meet artists firsthand.

The Arts Council presents many forms of art to the North Georgia community, including productions such as "Driving Miss Daisy" and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as part of the Arts Council Pearce Series. The council expanded its umbrella of disciplines to include film as well when it initiated the Movies on the Green series that began in July of this year and will continue in May 2008.

As the summer concert series comes to a close, the Arts Council prepares for a jazz series, which begins on Nov. 30 in the banquet hall. A variety of jazz ensembles are slated to perform this winter and spring, such as female performers Annie Sellick, Lynne Arriale and Rachael Price. Saxophonist Will Scruggs and jazz groups Havana Son and the Jazz Guardians are also scheduled for the series.

Although Wyant said the lawn at the Arts Council Smithgall arts center already features "green grass and a cool breeze," the Arts Council director said that she has big plans for the field. She said that she would like to transform the area into Gainesville’s version of Atlanta’s Chastain Park.

"Eventually we’d like to have a large enough audience to build our covered amphitheater so we can hold concerts even when it does rain," Wyant said. She said the new amphitheater would still be able to accommodate a crowd of about 2,000 people.