IF YOU GO
What: "The Creative Arts Guild: 50 Years in the Making"
When: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Fridays through March 2014
Where: Creative Arts Guild, 520 W. Waugh St., Dalton, Ga.
CREATIVE ARTS GUILD'S FOUNDERS
May Dell Harden
Marjorie Rhodes Willis
Marie Stull Crosby
Source: Creative Arts Guild
Dalton, Ga.'s reputation skewed more toward carpets than cultural arts in 1963.
Already known for its chenille bedspreads, the small town in North Georgia was on the precipice of becoming "The Carpet Capital of the World" with the introduction of manmade fibers and new machinery.
But a grass-roots group of 18 citizens believed nurturing local talent was as important as tufting when it came to the town's quality of life. They began talking up the need for a visual and performing arts clearinghouse that would "recognize, stimulate and popularize creative excellence in the arts."
They founded the Creative Arts Guild of Dalton.
"To my knowledge, prior to that there was the Dalton Little Theatre, but other than that, very little," says Terry Tomasello, current executive director of the guild.
The founders located a space for a performance hall and classrooms in an old fire hall on Pentz Street, which they rented from the city for $1 a year.
Then they made that fire hall Dalton's hot spot for entertainment.
The Creative Arts Guild recently honored those 18 founders as part of its 50th anniversary celebration. The unveiling of the Founders Garden was held June 21, the third addition to the Robert Webb Sculpture Garden.
The Founders Garden contains 12 sculptures in a variety of sizes placed in a U-shape around the lawn.
"Our goal was to find works that symbolically reflected the characteristics of the founders," says Robert Webb, for whom the overall sculpture garden is named.
"One piece reflects the germination of the idea; other pieces speak to the courage they had. Others speak to the ability to pull together their resources to make things happen."
Webb, senior director of public affairs and corporate communications for Mohawk Industries, served three terms as chairman of the guild's board of directors and is now a trustee. He describes the pieces in the Founders Garden as "mostly abstract or nonrepresentational."
"Someone might ask, 'What's that supposed to be?' It's just supposed to be sculpture. I don't want to tell you about it; I want it to be whatever you think it is," Webb explains.
Chattanoogans Jan Chenoweth and Verina Baxter are among artists whose work was purchased for the Founders Garden.
Chenoweth's work is a ladder-shaped A-frame, whose angled sides are made of sheets of corrugated galvanized steel.
Her work and its title, "Affirmation," were inspired by a class she taught at Elon University.
The artist says she was putting together Web images of shelters people built and different types of homes to show students. One series of images had been taken following the tsunami in Indonesia.
"People were putting together homes from anything they could find. They cobbled together pieces that were both incredibly lovely and painful to look at. But it was affirmation that they'd made it through the tsunami, had a place for cover and would survive. It moved me," she explains.
Baxter's royal blue and bright yellow sculpture in powder-coated aluminum and stainless steel is from her series of works on wheels.
"Mr. Wrinkle's Favorite Speedwagon" exudes whimsy through its vivid colors and its pairing of a horizontal cylindrical shape atop four, tall, metal legs balancing on stationary casters.
The Robert Webb Sculpture Garden opened in 2010 with the Magnolia Crescent. This space takes its name from the semicircle of magnolia trees surrounding the guild's parking area. It contains 16 works of art.
Chattanooga artist John Henry has a piece in the Magnolia Crescent. "Domaine" is an intersection of steel rods and planes. The artist says he built this piece using a hoist, cutting solid-steel slabs and elements and assembling it himself.
The nationally known sculptor says he considers the guild's Sculpture Garden "one of the more successful community arts institutions" he has seen.
The Rosen Garden is a smaller landscaped space directly in front of the guild's entrance that offers a serene setting in which visitors may reflect on its nine interesting sculptures.
The Robert Webb Sculpture Garden is a public art space open to the community to walk through at no charge.
Using their cellphones, visitors may hear an audio tour by dialing 706-504-9282 and punching in each sculpture's number.
Webb says the pieces spaced throughout the three gardens were purchased through donations. Tomasello estimates their cost at $450,000.
"My hope is that people enjoy the ways the pieces are in dialogue with one another," says Webb of the Founders Garden. "Many of them are enlivened by their surrounding pieces. I try to think of it as a whole rather than individual pieces."
Contact staff writer Susan Pierce at email@example.com or 423-747-6284.