Curt Yeomans covers government for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s face it, Jonesboro needs more art.
Before that sentence incurs the wrath of Arts Clayton Executive Director Linda Summerlin, it should be noted that it’s not a knock on her organization.
What it means is Jonesboro has frankly done a poor job capitalizing on the Arts Clayton Gallery and headquarters being located within its city limits. It brings talented artists to town every month but five of Jonesboro’s six City Council members don’t attend the gallery’s opening receptions.
Jonesboro relies too much on the popularity of “Gone With The Wind” to bring people in and while it certainly brings in tourists seeking out the mythical Tara, it is not enough.
To borrow a sports cliché and put it blunt terms: Jonesboro has let itself become a one-trick pony.
It needs to branch out. It can still go heavy on the “Gone With The Wind” tourism, but it needs to diversify and make people see there are other reasons to come to town.
It can still be the home of Scarlet O’Hara while also serving as a home to other things that appeal to other people.
It needs to embrace the arts.
The city used to sponsor events at the Arts Clayton Gallery, according to Mayor Joy Day. But, some council seats changed hands many years ago and council members put an end to that practice.
These days, any mention of Arts Clayton by city leaders is scarce. Any mention of the arts in general is scarce to be honest.
It is a shame because Jonesboro has an opportunity to revitalize its downtown because of Arts Clayton. It could become an artists haven along the same lines as Senoia and Asheville, N.C.
Artists could be sitting on park benches and doing sketches of street scenes in the city.
Jonesboro could lose Arts Clayton to the wide-open waiting arms of Forest Park or Morrow if it doesn’t step up and get more involved with the group. Those cities sponsored last weekend’s Arte Gras fundraiser while Jonesboro did not.
However, Jonesboro needs to invite artists to come in to the city first, and one of the best ways to start fostering that environment is to host an annual arts festival.
Spring is the time when arts festivals flourish throughout Georgia with at least 14 cities hosting arts festivals over the next two and a half months.
For starters, Woodbine’s Jazz N’ Arts on the Satilla Riverwalk event is on Sunday.
Then April will be anchored by the always popular Atlanta Dogwood Festival April 19 through 20 at Piedmont Park. However, April will also bring Tifton’s Arts in Black Festival, the Alpharetta Arts StreetFest, Tallapoosa’s Dogwood Arts & Crafts Fair, St. Simons Island’s 20th Annual Glynn Art in the Park Spring Festival and the Jasper ArtFest.
May will bring Gay’s Shady Days in Gay Arts & Crafts Festival, Athens’ Indie South Fair, Dearing’s Mayfest Arts & Crafts Fair, the Mayfest in Downtown Carrollton, the Adel Daylily Festival, Blue Ridge’s 37th Annual Arts in the Park and the Blairsville Spring Arts & Crafts Festival.
Jonesboro has Jonesboro Days, which no one is really sure what to do with and it is in real danger of dying off. It was once intended to be a time to bring current and former city residents together to celebrate the city. Then it got converted into a reunion for Jonesboro High School graduates from the 1950’s, but there are fewer and fewer people left to attend.
Last year, it was re-invented as a street festival with no clear purpose or identity.
Why not convert it into a city arts festival run by residents and community leaders?
You have Arts Clayton and its cadre of artists who are always looking for places to exhibit and sell their artwork. You also have arts students at Clayton State University and the county’s Fine Arts Magnet High School looking for places to make a name for themselves.
This isn’t exactly rocket science or neurosurgery. It can be done.
Get it promoted on the state’s Explore Georgia tourism website and put the word out there in artist communities across north Georgia. That will get some new crowds coming to Jonesboro.
The citizens of Jonesboro should step forward and take the lead on this and make it into an arts festival that could re-invent Jonesboro’s place on the map.
It could still be called Jonesboro Days. There is nothing mandating “art” be in the name.
Residents (including some forward-thinking city leaders) need to step forward and quit waiting for someone else to take the lead on this. Too much time is wasted by people staring at each other and saying “Uh, who wants to do this” while opportunities slip away.
It’s time for someone among the dreamers to step forward and say, “This is what we should do.”
Curt Yeomans is the Senior Reporter for the Clayton News Daily and an avid traveler. He can be reached at 770-478-5753, ext. 247 or via email at email@example.com.