It's hard to believe Arts in McNairy turns twenty this month, but it's true. On March 6, 2001 AiM's first board of directors was appointed and their first official act was adopting a set of bylaws that would guide the organization through its formative phases. Those directors and the founding documents they gave us have served our community well. Since that momentous first meeting, dozens of people have served on the board, volunteered for committee assignments and developed some of the best community arts programs in rural Tennessee if not the Southeast. We are proud of those accomplishments and not shy about bragging on the people who have worked so hard to bring them about. Where would we be without you?
We are entering as season of looking back and looking forward. Our partners at the McNairy County Independent Appeal will be publishing a series of articles that highlight some of Arts in McNairy's major accomplishments, share the stories of pivotal moments in our history and offer a forward-looking vision that will inspire our creative community to reach even higher for the next twenty years. If you happen to miss the article s in print, don't worry, they will appear in this space the week following publication in the Independent.
And we want to hear from you! By now, literally thousands of people have served and been served by Arts in McNairy. Whether you found your voice in one of our music, literature or community theatre productions; discovered a passion for the arts in one of our camps, workshops, or folklife programs; or were simply moved by any form of local creativity as an audience member or community partner, we would love for you to share those experiences. These are the stories that make it all worth while and we invite you to contact us by email or through any of our social media platforms. You might even get a spot as a guest blogger!
So, happy twentieth anniversary to Arts in McNairy. Time really does fly when you are having fun!
Freida Hamm is one of McNairy County’s most celebrated painters. She pursued some form of visual art most of her life, but as an adult graduate of Memphis College of Art and University of Memphis, Freida achieved international renown, primarily as a landscape artist with an instantly recognizable style. Working quietly from her home and studio on 5th Street in Selmer, Freida won international awards and commissions, was featured in numerous group and solo exhibitions worldwide, and turned out a body of work that is still much desired by art collectors today.
Arts in McNairy was honored to collaborate with her on occasion and proud to have her patronize many of our programs, but you really didn’t see Freida out and about that much. You could typically find her at her studio doing what she loved most: creating art.
Freida is our reminder that whether we see one another or not, creativity is never cancelled.
While we have been disappointed by the temporary suspension of programming at the Latta, our first responsibility is the health and wellbeing of the community we serve. As you might imagine, social distancing is difficult for an organization that was committed from the outset to bringing people together to share all kinds of creativity. Our mission hasn’t changed, but the way we go about it has evolved rapidly under the unprecedented conditions we are now facing together.
Keep watching our social media outreach. We will be posting videos from the Crossroads exhibit from time to time, sharing thoughts from our leadership, and highlighting Arts in McNairy’s various community arts programs. Of course, we will keep you updated on scheduling changes, and hope to have good news about future plans and programs as Arts in McNairy heads into our exciting 20th Anniversary season in 2021.
Spring is a time when we celebrate renewal, a time when nature itself is creating anew. This year, we encourage you to renew your sense of wonder and creativity. Write those poems you have neglected or finish that short story you started. Read a good book. Dust off the instrument and play a few tunes, if only for your own enjoyment. Take an online museum tour, or shoot that digital short film you’ve been thinking about. Break out the paints, pastels or pencils and have at it. Sing and dance like you mean it.
Creativity is not cancelled.
Arts in McNairy wishes you a healthy and happy Easter.
Crossroads: Change in Rural America is a traveling exhibit coming to West Tennessee March 21 - May 3. The state of the art museum experience will be at the Latta in Selmer, Tennessee.
Crossroads will explore rural America's past as visitors reminisce about the good ol' days and will encourage visitors to think about rural America's future, specifically the futures of their hometowns in West Tennessee. The exhibit includes several free standing displays with exceptional photography, interactive audio and video, and interactive elements for children.
If you would be interested in scheduling a visit for your group or have any other questions regarding Crossroads: Change in Rural America at the Latta Theatre, contact Arts in McNairy on Facebook, [email protected], or call 731-645-2671.
Crossroads: Change in Rural America is a Museum on Main Street exhibit. Museum on Main Street is a project by Smithsonian Institute. Crossroads: Change in Rural America is brought to Tennessee by Smithsonian Institute and Humanities Tennessee.
Discovering Carl Perkins will be released for purchase in the United States on November 8. Check back here for a new post with a purchase link at midnight CST on November 8.
LP/CD release party makes earliest Carl Perkins recordings available to the public for the first time
Eastview, Tennessee--Discovering Carl Perkins, a new LP/CD release by Bear Family Records, is the culmination of 10 years of work by Arts in McNairy’s traditional arts committee to recover the recordings of Stanton Littlejohn of Eastview, Tenn. and educate the public about their significance.
Between 1947 and 1957, Littlejohn amassed an incredible collection of original recordings from his Eastview home. The professionally preserved archive, which has been recognized by the Library of Congress as a national cultural treasure, includes recordings of many regional music legends, including a 19-year-old Carl Perkins. Discovering Carl Perkins marks the first public release of what are believed to be the rockabilly icon’s earliest recordings.
To celebrate this historic occasion, there will be a release party by Arts in McNairy. Shawn Pitts, Arts in McNairy board member and co-producer of Discovering Carl Perkins, will make a short presentation on the history of the Littlejohn recordings. Local favorites, Dawg Creek Band, will be on hand to play live rockabilly music and light refreshments will be provided by the City of Eastview and the Eastview Ruritan Club. A limited number of LP/CD sets will be available for purchase at the event.
The story of Littlejohn’s recording sessions will also be prominently featured on a Tennessee Music Pathways marker being installed in downtown Selmer later this year. McNairy County Tourism and Arts in McNairy collaborated with Tennessee Department of Tourism Development on the Tennessee Music Pathways project which is expected to generate considerable interest among roots music fans and cultural tourists.
“We are excited to share this music and this story with the public,” Pitts said. “We are also eager to see the new marker at Rockabilly Park. Together, these projects bolster McNairy County’s reputation as a hotbed of early rockabilly development and firmly establish Eastview as a site of historic significance.”
The public is invited to the release party on November 14 at 6:00 p.m. at the Eastview Civic Center. More details will be released for a dedication in Selmer for the Tennessee Music Pathways marker. For more information about the Perkins/Littlejohn recordings and release party contact Arts in McNairy’s Managing Director, Sarah Moore, at (731) 645-2671 or [email protected]
Carl Perkins Tracks Hailed as Game Changers for Rock 'n' Roll History
Selmer, Tennessee—In 2009 Arts in McNairy’s cultural heritage committee began the painstaking process of sorting through recordings made by Stanton Littlejohn at his Eastview, Tennessee home between 1947 and 1957. Dozen’s of fragile acetate (lacquer) discs recovered from the families of Mr. Littlejohn and the artists who recorded for him were subsequently digitized with the assistance of the Center for Popular Music at MTSU and the financial backing of the Tennessee Arts Commission’s Folklife Program. Several outstanding programs grew out of the Littlejohn project. A CD release, The Littlejohn Sessions Vol 1, and a short film, Homegrown: Music in McNairy, were well received locally, and the AiM preservation team received recognition by the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress for their efforts.
Now, ten years after the first Littlejohn preservation activities, comes the biggest news to date. Bear Family Records, the legendary German label specializing in recovering and reissuing historically significant American roots music recordings, will release Discovering Carl Perkins in October 2019. Four Littlejohn tracks featuring Perkins will be paired with selections from his unreleased Sun Records material to provide an eyeopening retrospective of the rockabilly icon’s earliest creative leanings. “These recordings confirm what Carl Perkins always said about his music,” said Shawn Pitts, leader of AiM’s original preservation team and coproducer for the Bear Family release. “They clearly demonstrate that he had an electrifying rockabilly sound years before he arrived at Sun Records. He didn’t have to have it coaxed out of him by Sam Phillips, rockabilly came as naturally to Perkins as breathing, and these recordings force us to seriously rethink some music history.”
A limited quantity of the 10 inch LPs which includes unpublished photos and an insert booklet detailing the history of the recordings will be available locally, online at Bear Family Records following the European release October 6, 2019, and on Amazon after November 8, 2019. Contact Bear Family producers Shawn Pitts ([email protected] ) and Hank Davis ([email protected]) for interviews.