published Friday, July 29th, 2011

Valleywide coalition for arts in the works

By Corrina Sisk-Casson/Correspondent
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DUNLAP, Tenn. — Sherry LeCroy and her friends at Artist Hands of Sequatchie Territory are on a mission.

The group would like to unite artists from Sequatchie and Bledsoe counties to form an arts coalition. Members are hosting a meeting to discuss it Aug. 9 at 6 p.m. at the Mill Restaurant in Dunlap. The meeting’s featured speaker will be Cindy Milligan, regional tourism director of the Southeast Tennessee Development District.

“We have contacted school systems, local governments; we’ve contacted local historical societies and the library, chambers of commerce,” LeCroy said. “We are just trying to get anybody and everybody who is interested in the preservation of the history of the valley.”

LeCroy said the arts include painting, drawing, drama, dance and music, and the group considers those who can cook well or who are master gardeners artists, too.

“We want to preserve the heritage arts and crafts and to encourage arts in every facet. At the same time, we hope that will bring people to the valley who will come to enjoy and learn,” LeCroy said. “The musical history in this area alone is phenomenal. And you add to that the long-term crafting — what we call heritage crafts — that are essential to the community.”

Artist Hands member Betty Legg said she hopes the coalition can foster the interest of younger generations so traditional handicrafts aren’t forgotten.

“If people want to improve their community and care about what they have here, they should take care of it and come to this meeting,” she said. “Like [the] Allied Arts [agency] in Chattanooga, they sponsor the symphony, the ballet, the museum, all these other things that they get grants for. But that’s Hamilton County. We want this for Bledsoe and Sequatchie.”

Meeting organizers said they will discuss how people can get involved, but one of their main goals is determining how to fund their ideas.

“We want to talk about how to get organized under one umbrella that includes everything and everybody,” LeCroy said. “Then we all help support each other’s projects and ideas. We all have access to grant-writing skills so we can get funding.”

Artist Hands now relies on Arts Build Communities grants from the state.

Organizers hope the coalition eventually will branch out throughout the Sequatchie Valley to sponsor galleries, workshops, studios, live performances and more.

“We hope it will become a destination area,” Legg said. “We want to attract people who like the same thing.”

Corrina Sisk-Casson is based in Dunlap. She can be reached at corrinacasson1@aol.com.

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