‘Lucy Ricardo,’ right, and ‘Ethel Mertz’ greet Anne McCallum Friday as she arrives for the opening of Arts Clayton’s ‘Reflection of Hollywood’s Golden Era — Movies Connecting the Past and Future’ exhibit. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)
JONESBORO — It was teamwork that brought “old Hollywood” to Clayton County, said Arts Clayton Executive Director Linda Summerlin.
Officials from Arts Clayton, Clayton County Convention and Visitor Bureau and the county’s film office collaborated to get an exhibit of about 30 vintage, painted movie posters for the Arts Clayton Gallery in Jonesboro.
Collector Herb Bridges is letting Arts Clayton display about 30 of his 70 posters. They were made between the 1920s and 1950s specifically for the old Loew’s Grand Theater in Atlanta by in-house artists to promote movies being shown. Bridges’ collection of “Gone With the Wind” memorabilia is on permanent display at the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau’s Road to Tara Museum in Jonesboro.
The exhibit, titled “Reflections of Hollywood’s Golden Era — Movies Connecting the Past and Future,” officially opened last week.
“This is just such an incredible, wonderful exhibit,” said Summerlin. “Every year, when we start planning out, we never know what we’re going to have. We never know what’s going to come out of the woodwork, but we call it ‘connecting the dots’ and ‘building on partnerships.’ This is what this is about. We are who we are because of partnerships that we have and build upon.”
The exhibit opening brought together a wide spectrum of people. Government officials hobnobbed with education officials, artists and arts patrons. Even Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz left their television perch to join the festivities.
Grant Wainscott, the county’s economic development director, said Arts Clayton is a worthwhile entity to get behind because it promotes arts in the community while also serving as an attraction to bring visitors to the county. The film office is an arm of the economic development department and it is planning a museum devoted to the movies that have been filmed in the county.
“We’re really grateful from an economic standpoint to have such an incredible amenity,” said Wainscott. “But the exhibit partnership doesn’t really aim to highlight a specific local collection. What you see today is truly a one-of-a-kind, priceless collection, but it’s more than that. It’s really indicative of partnerships and the new direction Clayton County is headed in.”
Arts Clayton has already benefited from collaborations in the past, such as its partnership with the school system to provide arts summer camps at area elementary schools for much of the last 20 years.
The organization is also heavily connected with groups and government agencies in the county. Officials from the school system, Clayton State University, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Clayton County Superior Court sit on its board of directors.
Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeff Turner said the exhibit is the beginning of brighter days to come for the county. The commission has been a financial supporter of Arts Clayton’s programs since the organization was formed in 1986.
“We have a county that is on the way up,” said Turner. “We have a county that has a lot to offer and a lot of opportunity. Yes, I’m the commission chairman, so I’m supposed to say things like that, but I say it because I believe it and I truly hope all of you believe it as well. Just look around you, we have a lot of gems in Clayton County that are shining. Arts Clayton is one of those gems. It’s because of the efforts of people like Linda Summerlin, her staff, the tourism board and the board of directors here that makes this place such a gem.”
Turner praised the fact that Morrow Mayor Joseph “J.B.” Burke and Jonesboro Mayor Pro Tem Pat Sebo attended the opening. He said all of the county’s cities, as well as the unincorporated areas, should take ownership of Arts Clayton and promote it.
“Arts Clayton is not a city of Jonesboro museum or arts center,” he said. “It’s a Clayton County arts center. We all collectively need to support this center. We need to put the word out. We need to let everybody, not only in Clayton County, but around the metro Atlanta area, know how great this place is. There was a lot of pain, sweat and effort that went into making this the way it is.”
Wainscott said one thing residents should to move the county forward is to focus on the county’s future, rather than past events such as the school system’s loss of accreditation in 2008. Although nearly half a decade has passed since the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools revoked the district’s accreditation, residents and officials often talk about it as if it happened more recently.
“You’re going to hear more in the future about collaboration and openness and that’s really a huge part of the direction we’re taking here in Clayton County,” said Wainscott. “Celebrating our differences, focusing on our successes and stopping the wallowing in our sorrows for things that have happened in the past, and realizing how we can better this community. That is going to be the hallmark, I think, of our new administration of the new direction you’re going to see our community taking.”
Bridges has reason to be happy with the collaboration that made the exhibit possible because he uses money he gets from galleries that display the posters to pay for their restoration.
“On some of them, you can see the mold and they just need help, so I found this restoration lady and she took a couple and it cost $500 a piece just to get them perked up,” he said. “I just can’t afford it unless I get a lot of exhibits rotating them so I can put my money back into them.”
Arts Clayton patrons said they were pleased with the fruit of the collaboration, but their interest was more on the artistry on display in the exhibit than the details of how they got to see it.
“It’s just so amazing to see the brushwork on these, and how they did it so fast but they were so sure of every stroke they put in,” said Anne McCallum. “It’s just awesome.”
And Bridges said the artists not only had one week to make the posters, they also had to make multiple posters in that tight time frame.
“They didn’t make one because the lobby had at least six places to show them so they’d have to make six posters at least for every movie,” he said.
Pam Pelt said she was inspired to do a movie marathon after seeing the posters. She said she was glad to see several posters featured one of her favorite actors, Clark Gable.
“Makes me want to rent them all and watch them day after day,” said Pelt.