Friends of South Jackson Civic Center may have noticed a new addition to the historical building’s facade, but the public will get the chance to see on their own just how the center has updated its look on Thursday.
Atop the front of the building are three brand new stained glass windows depicting representations of the fine arts that take place inside the iconic Tullahoma structure.
The windows were created by Barbara Church of Estill Springs. Church was among the artists selling items at the Arts Alive festival in May of this year.
According to South Jackson’s Greg Gressel, the windows’ installation was a three-month collaborative effort started by his son, Nicholas, for his Eagle Scout project.
“He wanted to do something to give back to the community,” Gressel said of his son. Nicholas has been involved in multiple shows at the center, including South Jackson Goes Country and various plays, and he knew that the windows had aged poorly and needed refurbishing.
“The old windows were painted black and had black curtains up there,” he said. “They looked really rough.”
Due to their age, the windows had fallen into “ill repair” and looked “not attractive,” Gressel said, so sprucing them up and creating something artistic that would last for years to come was a great Eagle Scout project for Nicholas.
“It just felt like a good project for him to jump on and try to make a difference there,” Gressel said.
“Eagle Scouts are told to look in their community for a need for something that would help the community and give back to the community on an ongoing basis,” he added, and the window project fit the bill perfectly. “Sustainability is a big component of their Eagle projects, and they’re supposed to be something that is sustainable and continues to give. Through the artwork, through the improvement to the community, [it] will continue to give back.”
Nicholas helped design all three windows, as well as create special enclosures for them in order to darken the main theater inside the center.
The enclosures, according to Gressel, are special frames that are able to slide into each of the three windowsills.
“It seals off any light from coming into the auditorium,” Gressel said. “The framework then has two doors on each window that lock, and that seals it off. You can still open and have access to the windows, but it seals it off and keeps it dark in the auditorium for performances.”
In addition to Nicholas’s work on the enclosures and the stained glass design, the center also received help from two local businesses.
Gressel said A&R Glass and Cook Neon Signs both assisted in the removal of the old windows and the installation of the new ones.
A&R Glass donated the labor and supplies necessary to cut out the old windows and install the new ones, while Cook Neon Signs provided lighting equipment for the windows to be lit up at night, Gressel said.
Gressel said without their support, the project would have been nearly impossible to achieve and thanked them profusely for their assistance.
Nicholas’s project isn’t the only one in recent months that has benefitted the civic center. According to Gressel, two other scouts have completed projects that helped improve operations at South Jackson.
Anthony Wonder’s Eagle Scout project was to create a brand new lighting and sound booth in the rear of the auditorium, Gressel said.
The Girl Scouts of America have also left their mark on the center through Taylor Patterson.
Gressel said a couple months before Anthony’s project, Taylor designed and constructed sound partitions for the orchestra as her Gold Award project – the Girl Scout equivalent to the Eagle Scout.
“She built and designed those to direct the sound to the stage and to become a sound barrier between the audience and the orchestra,” he said.
Having all these young people in the community recognize South Jackson as a vital component of the community does wonders for nonprofits like the center, Gressel said, and he was thankful that so many young scouts have chosen to do projects that benefit the center.
In order to celebrate the new windows and to kick off their nighttime lights, Gressel said there is a special lighting ceremony taking place at 8 p.m. on Thursday.
The lights will be flipped by a ceremonial switch, and the public will be able to see the new windows in all their glory.
“It will be the first time they will be lit,” Gressel said.
Once the windows are officially lit up, they will be set on a timer that will keep them lit during the nights and off during the day, Gressel said.
“It’ll be a constant reminder of South Jackson as a performing arts center here in the community, because the stained glass windows themselves are designed to portray the performing arts.”
Those wishing to attend the lighting ceremony are welcomed to attend. Light refreshments will be served.
South Jackson Civic Center is located at 404 S. Jackson St.
Erin McCullough may be reached at email@example.com.