Red Mountain, Tellico Plains TN - East Tennessee Land For Sale

E-mail: info1@tellico-tn.com

Living in Small Town America Without Sacrificing Big City Arts

Classical Pianist Ang Li

Classical Pianist Ang Li

What comes to mind when you hear the word “arts”?   Is it the Louvre in Paris?  Broadway Theater?  Maybe you remember reading the poetry of Wordsworth or Shakespeare in high school.  Perhaps you associate arts with Bach or The Beatles, fiddlers and cellists.

If you’re fortunate enough ­­to live in Monroe County, a little bit of all of these – and more – can be enjoyed through the non-profit organization Monroe Area Council for the Arts (MACA) – www.monroearts.com.  What began in the early 1990’s in a meeting at Hiwassee College in Madisonville has blossomed into a first rate program dedicated to fostering the growth and awareness of the arts in the 34th most populated county in the state of Tennessee.

Back in 1993, based on advice by the Tennessee Arts Commission, a lyceum committee was formed at Hiwassee College with the intent to utilize what was then the largest auditorium between Knoxville and Chattanooga.  A year later in 1994 the first performance featuring a classical guitarist was held, and it’s been a steady stream of diverse and impressive performances ever since.  Add to that the work MACA does to share a variety of arts in the county’s classrooms, and Monroe County is no longer green when it comes to the kind of arts not usually found in rural Tennessee.­

 

Shepherded by Mary Hendershot almost from the beginning, MACA not only provides accomplished performances for the community at large, its primary mission is to provide that “Aha!” moment to hundreds of schoolchildren that ordinarily might not have an introduction to the arts.  Says Hendershot, “We sprinkle a little art in the schools and give them opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have.”  She marvels at how enthusiastic the children are upon introduction to new forms of art and how well they respond to instruction when it’s given.

MACA Summer Arts Camp

MACA Summer Arts Camp

A few years after MACA was up and running, a one week children’s art camp, taught by professional teachers, began and has been held every summer since, providing instruction for K-6 in music, dance, drama, stage & set design. There are also artist residents – weavers, musicians, poetry workshops, etc… – that go into the schools and share their expertise, working one-on-one with the children.  Likewise, a Young Author’s Conference is put on annually­, and a School Performance Series is held specifically for Monroe County elementary age children.  This year features Aladdin, in conjunction with Missoula Children’s Theater, and Play to Win – The Jackie Robinson Story, performed by the Birmingham Children’s Theater.

Missoula Children's Theater - Blackbeard

Missoula Children’s Theater – Blackbeard

Missoula Children's Theater - Aladdin

Missoula Children’s Theater – Aladdin

For many children in Monroe County, the Missoula Children’s Theater plays each year are highly anticipated, offering one of the few chances to audition and perform not only in front of their peers in school showings, but for the general public as well.  In fact, more than a few kids in Monroe County have decided to pursue a career in the arts after participating in MACA’s Missoula Children’s Theater play.  Jacob Madden is definitely one such person.  He started taking part in the Missoula Children’s Theater plays when he was in 7th grade, and it’s because of MACA that he’s chosen to pursue a career either in acting or teaching theater to others.  He’s now a freshman at UT-Chattanooga majoring in theater.  Jacob credits his involvement with MACA for helping him pursue that dream of acting. “The experience you gain from the organization is plentiful.  MACA opened up my eyes to the world of acting and showed me how it can help a community.”

Hendershot believes that because of exposure to the arts and the artists who teach them, children learn that “to succeed it takes more than talent.  It takes hard work, self-discipline, and although you might not always be successful, if you really want to do something, you commit to it.  These kids have learned perseverance and having goals.”

Fiber Arts in the Classroom

Fiber Arts in the Classroom

Although the emphasis on introducing the next generation to arts is important, it’s equally meaningful, not to mention good business, to bring a variety of performances to the general public too.  By working with regional performers’ consortiums, MACA has been able to bring an array of acts to the community each year, including from this year’s series, Chinese classical pianist Ang Li, Dove Award winner Jaimee Paul, and local 9 year old vocal wunderkind Emi Sunshine.  Because some of the audience are season ticket holders, it’s a delicate balance to find just the right kind of acts.  While it might be nice to always have popular acts, it’s also constructive to introduce audiences to different kinds of art forms.  According to Mary Hendershot, it’s the goal of MACA to have “all performers be the best performance possible.”

MACA Director Mary Hendershot

MACA Director Mary Hendershot

Because Hendershot and the MACA board of directors, as well as local businesses and Friends of the Arts have worked hard to develop a community conducive and welcoming to the arts, MACA and Monroe County are well-regarded by the Tennessee Arts Commission.  Tennessee has a thriving entertainment and arts industry and the attention MACA has received led to the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development awarding 3 stars – the highest level achievable – plus extra points to Monroe County.  What exactly do those 3 stars mean?   When industries or corporations look to move into an area, there are a series of benchmarks they seek out in that community.  Those 3 stars mean it’s one of the most inviting and viable places in the state to have a business, including the right kind of place for its employees to live.  What started as a way “to add to the economic quality of life by bringing arts events” to the community has done just that in the best possible manner!

With this kind of recognition, what’s in the future for MACA and the arts in Monroe County?  For starters, Mary Hendershot plans to relax a little and step down once a new director is hired. She’s also hoping to start a discussion on the development of an arts center within the county.  According to her, “once you create that space, it makes possible for things to flourish.”  It seems that since its inception, Monroe Area Council for the Arts has made many things possible for the community, things its citizens once could only dream about.

 

 

To donate or for more information on MACA, tickets, Friends of the Arts, or ways to volunteer your time, please go to www.monroearts.com, or call 423.442.3210

 


Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*