DUNLAP, Tenn. -- For a few months, Artist Hands of Sequatchie Territory has been trying to gather area artists into a united group.
More than a dozen people representing groups from Blooms and Baskets Spinners to the Bledsoe Historical Society and city and county officials came to a recent meeting to discuss opportunities ranging from grants to tourism.
"It's admirable that you are meetings," said keynote speaker Cindy Milligan from the Southeast Tennessee Development District. "A lot of communities are struggling. They don't have near the variety of folks [represented here]. And all are different."
Most discussion was about bringing tourism to the Sequatchie Valley. The development district is creating a self-guided driving tour called the Sequatchie By-Way.
"I think that might be one of the first ways to come together, because that's going to be a unique effort where everybody is going to be talking together about what we have along this three-county region," Milligan said. "So that in itself may be a jumping-off place where people come together with their ideas to create more of a partnership and come up with ways of doing things more effectively."
Sherry LeCroy from Artist Hands, one of the people who spearheaded the meeting, said she was pleased with the turnout.
"I'm hoping Cindy will keep us cohesive by keeping us all in the loop," LeCroy said. "I think the organizing part of the whole thing will be her Sequatchie By-Ways. I can see it economically important to the community, but in order to get to those advantages we are going to have to do something for people to see and do while they are here. And that is where we can develop the heritage skills, the arts galleries, the shops and so forth."
Nina Hunt from Friends of the Sequatchie County Library agreed.
"I was curious about the effort to grow a coalition, and I was curious about what Cindy might have to say about the new byway," Hunt said.
She said the meeting made her think of the grant the city just received to build a bicycle trail, and she thought it fit perfectly with the byway project.
The rich history of the valley -- Cherokee Indians, coal mines, bluegrass music and Civil War -- also was discussed. All of these things Hunt hopes to incorporate in the driving tour.
Hunt also wants to promote the valley in general as a destination.
"You know, you go to places like Bell Buckle [Tenn.], and towns that are smaller than this one, and you see that there can be a revival of economy and utterly charming places to visit. And I see no reason why this shouldn't be. It's breathtakingly beautiful, and it couldn't be easier to get to."
Corrina Sisk-Casson is based in Dunlap. Contact her at email@example.com.