Arts Center Of Cannon County Is County-wide Effort

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Woodbury and Cannon County have earned a solid reputation for being an arts community; going back several generations with hand-crafted white oak baskets, rocking chairs and more.

In recent years, the performing arts have taken center stage.

I personally remember several years ago, a group of Cannon County business and community leaders asked me to help with organizing a chamber of commerce there.  

We met and did visioning workshops to help them focus on what unique characteristics should be the brand or signature.

The consensus from the group was "to be known as a county with artistic talent."

One does not have to look far to see that Woodbury and Cannon County have made their marks.

Artisans have come out of the hills and hollows of Cannon County since early settlers, but for the sake of this article, I shall focus on The Arts Center.

Dr. Darryl Deason, a life member of the Board, and I recently sat down and reflected on the genesis of the organization.

A native of neighboring Bedford County, Deason graduated from Shelbyville Central High School, earned a degree from MTSU and then received his dental degree from the University of Tennessee Medical School in Memphis.

"I became involved in community theater while a teen in Shelbyville, so I knew that I wanted to start my practice in a town that either had a community theater or where one could be started. I chose Woodbury," he remembered.

Deason continued, "I saw an advertisement one day in the Cannon Courier where Richard Northcutt, a local attorney, wanted to organize a community playhouse. I called him and volunteered."

The fledgling organization started its performances in 1980 by bringing in some touring groups who performed in the Lions Club Building.

By the next year, 1981, the Cannon Community Playhouse took on solid legs by producing, directing and performing its own productions in the basement of the Veterans Memorial Building.

Nine years later, with support from the late State Rep. John Bragg in attracting public dollars and a major capital campaign, the arts group was dreaming big dreams.

Two prominent men in the community, Dr. Robert Mason and Bill Smith, put their shoulders to the wheel and got the wagon rolling.

The rest is history.

According to Deason, there is a never-ending process in identifying and procuring plays that will fit the demographics in Cannon County and Middle Tennessee.  

"We plan at minimum one year in advance: securing quality plays, designing sets, and thinking about actors," he explained. "Because of The Arts Center's quality reputation, the task of attracting great talent has become easier."

Deason remarked, "One show requires a minimum of 80 hours per person in rehearsal time over a six-week period. Constructing the set adds another 50 to 80 hours per volunteer. In fact, the night that one show ends, we begin immediately constructing the framework for a set to be used in the next presentation."

It has been said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery.

Deason agrees.

Several communities are now copying the model developed by The Arts Center of Cannon County.

"We were one of the first community theatres to develop matinees for school children," he commented. "It has been an overwhelming success."

The Arts Center volunteers also have a fiscal responsibility in making sure the organization keeps its finances in the black rather than in red.

Deason put it this way, "Without a margin, there would be no performances."

Besides his professional career, and the countless hours devoted to The Arts Center, Deason is a man of many other talents:  Sunday School teacher at Northside Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, a gourmet cook, a world traveler on church mission trips, and one of his favorite projects is coaching the Beta Club at Cannon County High School.

Dr. Darryl Deason, age 57, appears to have a "purpose driven life."
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