IN THE BEGINNING
The ideas which became Arts in McNairy were born during a series of informal discussions and public meetings about the need for improved arts programming in rural McNairy County, Tennessee. By 2001, a set of bylaws had been adopted and a twelve member board of directors appointed. For five years, the organization thrived on community support launching an acclaimed community theater program which drew regional casts, crew members and audiences. A popular summer concert series was staged at the newly constructed Selmer City Park Stage bringing touring groups in every genre of music to the area. Local children enjoyed a summer art camp and benefited from cooperative efforts with local schools to introduce diverse new art forms into the lives of local students through joint presentations and an innovative after-school program. Literary events like the ground breaking Fiction and a Flick Club and the Southern Fried Poetry Contest found enthusiastic participants of all ages throughout the community. Local visual artists were engaged in individual and group showings as well as an annual photography contest drawing hundreds of entries from surrounding states. AiM was off and running.
By 2006, Arts in McNairy had obtained 501(c)(3) status and was becoming more familiar in regional and state arts circles. That was also the year AiM leadership held an important planning session to review past successes and failures in an attempt to better serve the community. While the victories were many, it was deeply felt that a statement in the bylaws, codifying the organization's commitment to preserve and promote the cultural strengths of McNairy County, had not been honored. AiM became one of the first small rural arts groups in the state to implement a community wide cultural assessment and plan which would open doors to many new constituents and dramatically shape the organization's future. The organization continued to improve the existing offerings but added a heritage and culture committee, fine craft committee and culinary committee to address the needs of those engaged in local food and folkways. Multiple programs, projects and festivals have since been developed or improved to enhance this important facet of AiM's mission. AiM's focus on the traditional arts was featured in a segment of Creative License, on Tennessee Public Television.
AIM TODAY AND TOMORROW
AiM still strives to promote participation in the arts comprehensively through arts programs for: visual arts, theatre, music, fine craft, literature, and heritage arts. In 2012, AiM moved into its new home, the McNairy County Visitor's and Cultural Center in the historic Latta Building, downtown Selmer. Since then, the organization's programs have continued to proliferate and it is well position for future growth and expansion. At the end of the 2016 AiM will publish a "State of the Arts" report that details the organization's fifteen years of community arts engagement, local economic and social impact, and a new five year plan.