Photo from Pat Richards / "Catawba" by Margie GallagherPhoto from Pat Richards / "Sorcerer Goddess" by Pippa Browne.

The Franklin County Arts Guild has big plans for its next community show. All that's required of participating artists are big ideas, along with their oversized art.

The first show of the year is actually two shows. Both — one for members and one for the community — will open Thursday, Jan. 16, under one broad theme: "Big."

Volunteer Pat Richards says some of the guild's 30 to 40 members specialize in large-scale works, so she expects they'll have pieces to proffer. The community shows are more of a surprise.

"It's always different and interesting what shows up in our community shows," she says. "We've had people in our community shows as young as 10 and as old as 92."

If you go

› What: Franklin County Arts Guild’s “Big” community and member shows.

› When: Both open Thursday, Jan. 16. Community pieces on view through Sunday, Feb. 2. Member works on view through Sunday, March 1. Reception at 5 p.m. CST Friday, Jan. 17.

› Where: Artisan Depot & Gift Shop, 204 Cumberland St. East, Cowan, Tennessee.

› Gallery hours: Noon-5 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Sunday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday (all times Central).

› Admission: Free.

› Phone: 931-313-5686.

› Online:

› Note: Intake for the “Big” community show will be 10 a.m.-2 p.m. CST Monday-Wednesday, Jan. 6-8. There are no restrictions on age, expertise or medium. There is no fee to submit.

Size matters for "Big," with all submissions required to be at least 24 inches on all sides. Community artists will have the next three mornings, Jan. 6-8, to drop off their works. The combined show will run through Sunday, Feb. 2. The member show will continue through Sunday, March 1.

Richards says its always interesting to see how different artists interpret different themes. Later this year, member artists will offer works with a "Recycled" focus, and community artists will have the chance to explore such themes as "Beertopia," "Earth Day" and "Rainbow Connection." All are open to interpretation.

If the theme is "Buildings," for example, Richards explains, "there might be a lot of photographs of buildings, or oils or pastels of buildings, or someone might work with clay or wood pieces [depicting buildings]. You interpret it how you see it," she says.

Richards says she's particularly proud of the accessibility of the community shows, which are open to any artist, with no restrictions on age, expertise or medium and with no entry fee. They need only to drop off the piece ready to hang.

"Have you ever wondered if anybody else would be interested in your art?" she says. "You think, 'I like my stuff. I know some of my family likes my stuff.' The community shows are a great way to find out if others enjoy your art. You may not get rich doing this — not in Cowan, Tennessee. But you've got your foot in the door. You know what it's like to participate in the art world."

Save the date

The Franklin County Arts Guild will presents its annual scholarship fundraiser, Arts and Ales, noon-4:30 p.m CDT Saturday, March 28, at Monterey Station, 104 Monterey St., in Cowan, Tennessee. The 21-and-older event will include samples from craft breweries, home-brew demonstrations, live music, local art and artist demonstrations. General admission is $25. VIP tickets, which include a preview party with chef-hosted food and beer pairings, are $40. Find out more at

Richards says that's especially important for the young artists who participate in the gallery's student shows during the year.

"They can see what it's like to have a piece of art hanging in a gallery," she says. "Yes, it's a very small gallery in a very small town, but it gives them a sense of how this works. It's not so intimidating. They think, 'I can do this.'"

Richards, 72, says she got involved with the guild after returning to the area from Huntsville, Alabama, about five years ago and finding the group to be "so welcoming and supportive."

A fiber artist who works primarily with yarn, fabric and paper, she credits her "crafting" with seeing her through "a multitude of crises."

"Even though I never considered myself an artist, and really still don't, doing what I've done in my life has brought me so much pleasure and so much joy and so much comfort, I cannot imagine what people do [to cope] if they don't release that creative energy in some way."

Contact Lisa Denton at or 423-757-6281.