October 2009
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Troy’s Johnson Center For the Arts Offers Cultural Double Dip

Johnson Center for the Arts located at 300 East Walnut Street in Troy


The Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Complex staff has outdone itself.

And, there are “two ways about it.”

First, the arts organization brought its most ambitious project to date to fruition. The Center’s “Celebrating Contemporary Art in Alabama: The Nature of Being Southern” exhibit opened at the Holman and Ethel Johnson Center for the Arts in Troy in August and runs through November 14.

The exhibition features 41 Alabama artists who are past recipients of the prestigious Individual Visual Arts Fellowship awards from the Alabama State Council on the Arts.

Then, in September, the Center brought the “New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music” to The Cultural Arts Studio. The Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition will close on Nov. 10.

The “New Harmonies” exhibition explores the distinct cultural identities of American roots music forms through a selection of photographs, recordings, instruments, lyrics and artists profiles. Richard Metzger, Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Complex executive director, doesn’t try to hide his excitement over the interest these two exhibitions are generating in and around Pike County and far beyond.


Inside Johnson Center for the Arts

“Showcasing Alabama artists in the ‘Celebrating Contemporary Art in Alabama’ exhibition is a unique opportunity for the public to see the richness of the artistic talent we have in Alabama,” Metzger said. “And, to have 41 Alabama artists all in one exhibition is incredible. There’s not one piece in this exhibition that would be looked down on by galleries in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and other art markets in the world.”

Metzger said already the interest being generated is rivaling that of the “Prints of Andy Warhol” that was the opening exhibit for the Johnson Center for the Arts in September 2008.

“We expect the response to be even greater,” he said. “There are a lot of people — and not just people in Alabama —- who are interested in the art being generated here. And, we’ve just scratched the surface of the artistic talent in our state with this exhibition.


Shadron Graham, assistant to director of the Johnson Center for the Arts, with Cal Breed’s glass art.


The “Celebrating Contemporary Art in Alabama: The Nature of Being Southern” exhibition includes a wide range of visual art, ranging from quilt making to installation pieces and from blown glass to ceramics, from painting and photography to furniture and sculpture.

“Some of the pieces are whimsical, some are provocative and all are excellent,” Metzger said. “These artists deserve to have their work seen because it is of the highest caliber. It’s obviously world class.”

And, when visitors to the Johnson Center for the Arts exit the building, they will be invited to walk across the street and enjoy the “New Harmonies” exhibit at The Cultural Arts Studio.

“We are extremely excited to be able to bring these two exhibitions to the Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Complex at the same time,” Metzger said. “The ‘New Harmonies’ exhibition is a celebration of America’s music. It’s both sacred and secular, revealing distinct cultural identities and records the histories of people reshaping themselves in a new and changing world.”

The “New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music” examines the growth of American music as rich and eclectic as the country itself.

The instruments vary from fiddles to banjos, from accordions to drums.


Wiley White, development director of the Johnson Center for the Arts, with Rachel Wright’s vintage dresses.


Metzger said the origins of the sounds are just as diverse, but all of the rhythms, melodies and harmonies merge to create completely new sounds.

Although the exhibition needs no enhancement, the Complex has added an educational/entertainment component to it.

“We will offer a lecture series on the campus of Troy University,” Metzger said. “On October 1, Dr. Allen Brown will present ‘Sounds of Alabama, Blues, Folk and Country Western Icons from the Heart of Dixie’ at the Trojan Center Theater. On October 15, Daphne Simpkins will present ‘Nat King Cole’ at the Crobsy Theatre and, on October 29, Dr. Brown will present ‘Songs of Slavery: Black Folk Songs from Alabama’ at the Trojan Center Theater. All lectures are at 10 a.m.” There will also be a concert series at the Gazebo on the square in downtown Troy.

The schedule is: Lenny Trawick, country music, Oct. 1; Jim Bell Trio, rhythm and blues, Oct. 6; Tommy Stewart and band, jazz, Oct.13; Dan Fraley, backwoods music, Oct 20; Willie Felton and Company and Stanley Smith and Company, sacred harp, Oct. 27; and Troy University Gospel Choir and Community Gospel Choir, Nov. 3. All concerts begin at 5:15 p.m.

“I don’t believe you can go anywhere and find the diversity and caliber of exhibits we are offering with the ‘Celebrating Contemporary in Alabama’ and the ‘New Harmonies’ exhibitions,” Mezger said. “And, this is probably a one-and-only opportunity to see these 41 Alabama artists exhibiting together. This exhibition is unique to the Johnson Center for the Arts and probably will not be shown anywhere else.”

There will be an artists’ reception for the 41 participating artists from 5:30 until 8 p.m. on Oct. 10 at the Johnson Center and the public is invited.

“The ‘New Harmonies’ exhibition is a traveling exhibit, but we’ve got it right here in Alabama and those who love music of any kind will not want to miss it,” Metzger said.

As always, admission to the Johnson Center for the Arts is free. There is no admission charge to the ‘New Harmonies’ exhibit.

The Johnson Center for the Arts is located at 300 East Walnut Street in downtown Troy. The Cultural Arts Studio is located across the street from the Arts Center. Hours are 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Groups are welcome and docent tours may be scheduled by calling (334) 670-2287.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.