Whittle: Art breathes, lives at center

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OK politicians, Demo and Repub, listen up and listen tight.

Good, common-sense educators will tell you, the 'arts' are as important as algebra and grammar, although as a writer, I rate grammar several notches above algebra.

How important are the 'arts'?

Artists have made Cannon County known not only around the nation, but around the globe thanks, initially, to the patient and gifted nimble-fingered artisans of white oak baskets.

If you call making moonshine an art, that's also helped make Cannon County famous dating back to the 1800s in the region's beautiful rolling hills and valleys. And due to the modern-day Chamber of Commerce and Short Mountain Distillery, magnified by the news accounts in the historic Cannon Courier newspaper, moonshine is a popular modern-era tourism draw for the region.

And along came the Arts Center of Cannon County in the 1980s-1990s giving exposure and venue to local artisans, actors, whittlers, sculptors, musicians ... plus internationally-acclaimed entertainers such as the late great Dr. Ralph Stanley.

That's why I am personally humbled, as an author, to premier on Saturday, April 15 from 3p.m. until 6 p.m.) my new book Music City: Talent Behind the Stars that narrates a lot of important, but largely unknown behind-the-curtains' talent and history of Music City U.S.A. and Middle Tennessee, including our own Uncle Dave Macon.

Thanks to the genius and encouragement of Arts Center Executive Director Neal Applebaum (neal@artscenterofcc.com) and Assistant Director Mary Wilson, they've booked Leroy Troy and the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band to perform the evening of April 15 to help promote the arts at the Arts Center.

"It's a record 8th time Leroy Troy has been invited to perform at our Arts Center," Wilson confirmed. "Leroy and the Jug Band boys always fill up our theater."

It was a play back in the 1990s, Smoke 0n The Mountain, we fell in love with Mary Wilson as fans.

Leroy, Hilda Stuart along with Jennifer Stuart, mother and little sister to Marty, will be signing books with me, along with song writer Billy Henson of Murfreesboro and Bill (Pentecostal Wolfman) Wolfenbarger, whose ministry helps the stars and folks in multiple nations around the world. There could be some surprise big name Music City stars for the April 15 events too.

What an honor from the Arts Center and the music-making family of Middle Tennessee to recognize my newest book.

The Art Center's booking last year of Jason Petty, impersonator of the late great Hank Williams Sr., exploded into a spiritual experience for wife Pat, myself, and guests Truman Jones and wife Jackie, a victim of Alzheimer's.

It had been weeks since friend Jackie had drifted back to us in the present.

But, when Jason Petty gave his stirring renditions of such classics as "I Saw the Light" and "Cold Cold Heart," friend Jackie and Pat broke out in song, accompanying Mr. Petty word-for-word throughout the rest of the evening. Hanks' music brought Jackie back to us for a few fleeting moments. We had "church" complete with tears of joy there in the theater. A few weeks later, we lost Jackie to the heavens above.

The Arts Center has evolved into a living and breathing part of life in Woodbury as exampled on March 20, 2014, when hundreds gathered at the Arts Center to celebrate the 100th birthday of legendary civic leader, former Woodbury Mayor and Cannon Executive Dude Northcutt.

Mr. Northcutt, on June 2, 2014, was ultimately promoted up to the Heavens where other good Good Samaritan-minded public officials reign with the Angels. The Arts Center provided the platform for Mr. Northcutt to be recognized by his community.

Mr. Dude's "giving back" to Woodbury lives on in the veins of his daughter, Woodbury Alderman Faye Northcutt Knox, who also has "starred" in a play at the Arts Center.

"Our Arts Center is a vital pulse of our community that is graced with a multitude of talented artists and performers," Alderman Knox christened.

Political leaders throughout America need to be firmly notified we, as working tax payers and parents and grandparents, demand the 'arts' remain important curriculum in public education.

I benefitted from tiny Canalou (MO) School of higher thinking and advanced ciphering. In addition to arithmetic and spelling, our rural teachers focused on the arts, plays and book recitations. They encouraged me to "write, write and write some more" to develop a craft that has taken me around the globe. And now, I'm extremely pleased as an author to be invited back home here to the Arts Center of Cannon County.

When you have the time Google sculptor/artist Michael Parkes, the only world famous artist to come through our little rural school! His home/studio overlooks Gibraltar from the coast of Spain.

It would not have happened if those gifted, lowly-paid rural teachers had not insisted we farm kids develop and hone our God-given talents and gifts.


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