By Diane Glidewell
One sweet secret in the heart of Butts County is its collection of fine art.
Twenty-eight pieces now make up a collection that is maintained by the Jackson Butts County Council for the Arts, a community group which is open to anyone who shares an interest in the arts and would like to become a member or support the group's projects.
Most of the collection is currently on display at the Butts County Administration Building, which offers spacious, well lit hallways, large white walls, and convenient access for the public. Some visitors to the Administration Building probably do not realize that the sculptures and paintings they stop to enjoy have been provided with no public funds through the efforts of private citizens.
A large ceramic work by Susan Cauthen Clayton, of Tallapoosa, greets those who come in the main entrance of the Butts County Administration Building. Pastels, water colors, and oil paintings are displayed on the walls of the different corridors, additional three-dimensional pieces are tucked away by the walls, and a few pieces are in the office foyers and conference room.
The collection began as the vision of local artist, Scott Coleman, as an extension of the Fine Arts Festival that the Jackson Butts County Council for the Arts has coordinated since 1996.
"We were thinking of the future," said Coleman. "Ten years or so from now, Jackson will have an arts center that should have original art. We will have the collection."
The Fine Arts Festival, which was held on May 8 this year, is an invitational event in which an average of 16 artists in various media are invited to display their creations and talk about their art to people in Butts County. Patrons of the show agree to purchase a certain amount of pieces each year, and the artists' works are also for sale to the public.
In the second or third year of the festival, members of the Council for the Arts agreed to budget $1,000 each year to purchase items from artists at the festival for a permanent collection. Some years, only one item has been selected, and in other years, the council has been able to acquire as many as three pieces to add to the collection.
From the 2010 festival, the council added works from three new artists to the collection. Those additions include a free-form bowl with a robin's-egg-blue interior and gold crackle exterior from blown-glass artist, Tadashi Torii. Torii, of Duckbill Studios in Scottdale, has been one of the featured artists at the festival for several years. Some members of the arts council were able to visit Torii's studio several years ago for a demonstration of the process by which he creates his art, according to Coleman.
A tempera mixed-media painting by Liz Carmichael Jones, of Jackson, from a portfolio of her earlier work, was also added to the permanent collection this year.
"We were very happy to get a piece of this quality," said Coleman.
The third piece purchased for the collection in 2010 also came from a local talent, Fred Goodrum. The painting chosen was Goodrum's "Silent Music," an acrylic on canvas.
"Goodrum is so whimsical," said Coleman. "He has his own vision, and he consistently puts it down well."
The two paintings will be hung in the Butts County Administration Building soon, but Torii's bowl may remain in storage for a while due to the need for an appropriate display case. There are currently five pieces in the collection which are waiting for display cases. Cases are usually air-tight and built to protect the art they showcase. The display case for Clayton's piece, which stands near the Administration Building entrance, was custom built. It was donated by McIntosh State Bank.
All of the art is sensitive to light to some extent. Most of the collection is placed away from the light at the front of the Administration Building, and the more delicate pieces are placed to the back of the building.
Some of the other artists in the collection are Ike English, Signe Grushowenko, Katherine Allen Coleman, Elaine Howard, Pat Holland, and Charlotte Riley Webb. Each year the works to add to the collection are chosen by a committee of members from the Fine Arts Council. Selections are made according to what the committee members agree will best augment the collection. An artist must come to the festival and exhibit his or her works to be considered for inclusion in the collection.
"The permanent collection shows the history of our art collection," said Katherine Allen Coleman. "There are a lot of media. There are works from up-and-coming artists. Some pieces may accrue a great deal of value."
The permanent collection was originally housed at the Jackson-Butts County Library, but when renovations began at the library about three years ago, a new home was found at the Butts County Administration Building, where it would also be easily accessible to the public. A few years ago, the collection toured the county and was displayed at Sylvan Grove Hospital, Jackson Elementary School, McIntosh State Bank, and Georgia Community Bank.
Scott Coleman has volunteered his time and knowledge to supervise the display and storage of the pieces in the collection throughout its existence, according to Council for the Arts Member Cheryl Hilderbrand.
"I would like the community to understand that this is done for them," said Hilderbrand.
Also on display, along one wall of the Administration Building, are seven framed posters designed by Scott Coleman to advertise the first seven years of the Fine Arts Festival, 1996 to 2002. The posters belonged to Linda Sullivan and John Herdina, who then owned the historic J.R. Carmichael House, which hosted the festival for its first several years.
Sullivan and Herdina donated the framed posters to Butts County when they moved from Jackson.
After the J.R. Carmichael House, the arts festival moved to the Courthouse Square for several years, took a one-year hiatus, and then moved to "The Triangle" where Dempsey Avenue meets East Third Street.
For the past three years, the arts festival has been held in May on the space slightly back from "The Triangle," adjacent to Carmichael Insurance on Dempsey Avenue. The space is provided by Candace Carmichael, who is an active member of the arts council. Nearby Jackson United Methodist Church agrees to allow use of its Fellowship Hall in case of rain.
"It is a small, intimate space, easily accessible to the public," said Scott Coleman. "It is pretty. It is shady. It fits the ambiance of the festival."