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By BRIAN JUSTICE
Visual and performing arts are more than what initially meets the eye and ear, and for that reason Tullahoma is forming a special arts council to do what it can to make the city one of Tennessee’s strongest cultural-based communities.
Forming the Tullahoma Arts Council — community volunteers with a deep interest in the arts — is part of the overall effort to make Tullahoma one of the most attractive communities in which to locate in Tennessee. Arts and art enthusiasts who might want to serve on it met for the first time Friday at the Tullahoma Events Center with about 100 attending.
The goal is to develop a strategic plan to promote artwork by attracting federal and state grant money and having special fundraisers, managed by the Arts Council with input from a special steering committee.
Mayor Lane Curlee requested Anne Pope, Tennessee Arts Commission executive director, and Shannon Ford, the state agency’s Community Arts Development director, attend Friday’s gathering to provide input about how other cities handle their arts councils and give advice on what Tullahoma can do to make its venture into a higher cultural realm more successful.
Pope said art goes way beyond its initial appearance because cities with strong promotional programs attract more intellectual residents who tend to bolster economies.
She referred to Chattanooga and how the automobile manufacturer Volkswagen decided to locate a large-scale production plant there.
Pope said other cities were in the running, but Chattanooga’s progressive focus on the arts swayed the Volkswagen pendulum in its favor, and the company chose to locate there.
“All were about the same, but the arts made Chattanooga the top choice with aesthetics,” she said, explaining Volkswagen’s approach: ‘“We all want to live in a vibrant community,’ and that put Chattanooga over the top. Chattanooga took the arts and made it their brand.
“If it’s part of your brand, it helps a lot, and it’s fun.”
Pope said involvement in the arts at the preparatory school level has revealed students tend to do better academically and succeed at other challenges in life.
She said for that reason, other Tennessee cities have tried to improve their focus on attracting and sustaining art programs.
Pope said Tullahoma’s attitude toward developing the city’s Arts Council is outstanding and shows that it can be at the forefront among cities in the state in its art offerings.
Winston Brooks, Tullahoma’s community coordinator who’s aiding in forming the council and steering committee, referred to the significance of having Pope and Ford attend Friday’s gathering.
“This is a big day for us and the art history of Tullahoma,” he said. “It means a lot to have them here, their focus will help us a lot.”
Curlee said promoting the arts has many benefits.
“Tullahoma has many people who have been gifted with artistic talent,” he said. “I want to invest in Tullahoma arts and create an Arts Council.
“An arts-rich community is an attractive place to work and live. Also, students who are active in the arts do better across all disciplines of study. Let’s invest in the arts in Tullahoma by supporting the performing, cultural, visual, dramatic, graphic and culinary arts.”