For the 54th year, members of the Macon Civic Club shed their business attire and indulged their alter egos in early February to benefit charitable organizations in Macon. Under the creative wizardry of Jim Crisp, Theatre Macon’s founder and director, the audience was transported to the “Heartbreak Hotel,” the theme of this year’s musical revue, for a four day run.
The wives of members threw themselves into the action with zeal equal to the guys’ energy in building sets and pulling together pick up bands that backed an array of crooners, rockers and hillbillies.
Baxter James belted out a Marshall Tucker anthem, the mournful, she-done-me-wrong “Can’t You See,” eyes closed and fingers stroking the piano like the professionally trained pianist he is. Grandmother Susan McDuffie can be thanked for that -- hard to hide those McDuffie musical genes under a bushel.
Susan Welsh, executive director of the Museum of Arts and Sciences, can add high kickin’ dancer to her resume. Macon’s abundance of homegrown talent is ready and willing to strut their stuff to support this annual major fundraiser, the proceeds from which benefit eight community nonprofit organizations.
Billy Walker obviously had fun as a romantic balladeer in his cover of the Beatles’ “Something,” his infectious enthusiasm apparent in the entire cast of amateurs that raise an impressive amount of money to improve the lives of the most vulnerable residents in our town.
SHADES OF GREY
Heatherly Wakefield, director of fine art for Macon Arts Alliance, is very clever.
On February’s First Friday, she knew curiosity about a title for this month’s art exhibition, which intimated some connection to the premiere of a salacious movie, would bring in some Friday night revelers who had never been to the gallery -- and, she was right.
Even without any X-rated artwork, the “Shades of Grey” collection piqued the interest of old and new fans of the monthly opening. Six artists who are part of Complementary Colors group and live in the mountains of North Carolina participated in the Macon show after one of their members, Linda Dease Smith of Macon and Boone, North Carolina, suggested the black and white exhibition to Wakefield. The cooperative meets twice monthly to critique and encourage each other’s work.
Smith, a retired university administrator, is a traditional quilter who now incorporates other elements into her compositions, experimenting with collages to create textural interest in shades of black and white. Like Smith, Theresa Early does not come from an artistic discipline. Retired from Appalachian State University where she was professor of mathematical sciences, her affinity for symmetry is evident in the geometric designs of her patchwork quilts, which have joined the ranks of fine art.
Ann Stone’s mixed media work on small canvases intrigued viewers with scraps of photography layered with contemporary images in acrylic and ink, influenced by her work with special needs children whose levels of communication and interaction can be very complex. One canvas was etched with what could be an homage to Macon, “Taste the Music.”
Kathy Leahy, for whom art has been a lifelong pursuit, works in oil, acrylics and mixed media, producing distinctively textural work. LaMae Strange became a painter in 2001, moved from the coast to North Carolina in 2004, and continues to paint scenes that incorporate her coastal experiences with the mountains’ mystery. Photographer Priscilla Popper, also a Blowing Rock transplant, has been photographing in black and white since the 1980s. Lately, she has made the leap to color photography, inspired to expand her horizons by her fellow artists in the Contemporary Colors group.
Kirk West never missed an opportunity to photograph the musicians he met traveling the globe as road manager for the Allman Brothers. The stunning black and white images of the famous -- and those he knew would be one day -- are archived and hanging in the new gallery where West and his wife, Kirsten, celebrated the grand opening on February’s First Friday.
It looked like the brothers might have made a surprise visit, so packed were the fans who had waited for this unveiling for years. There had been teasers on occasion at Macon Arts Alliance and other galleries, but nothing as comprehensive as what the Wests have displayed on the walls of the stunning new addition to Macon’s arts scene. If you are feeling some nostalgia about that last concert with the Boss, have no fear. Gallery West is selling copies of the photographs, which could only be taken from the strategic vantage points available to West when he was up close and personal with the icons of the music industry.
Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or firstname.lastname@example.org.