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Major Development Made in Attracting Arts Programs to McClellan

By Sherry Kughn
JSU News Bureau

June 24, 2004 — The Alabama Symphony Orchestra has announced its decision to make Calhoun County’s former Fort McClellan its permanent summer home.

Kicking off this new relationship, the Joint Powers Authority (JPA), which is responsible for the reuse of the old military base, created an outdoor concert series known as Music at McClellan. Four recent concerts were recently presented for varying musical tastes.

The series, which attracted about 6,500 fans, has triggered a much larger interest in developing the arts at McClellan. Officials are now discussing an expansion that would include a multifaceted cultural program involving the performing arts, visual arts, architectural arts, literary arts, and more.

“Most of the successful cultural development models seem to include an educational component, and I suppose that’s for two basic reasons—first, to create another generation of artists and, second, because it’s really good business,” said Pete Conroy, director of JSU’s Environmental Policy and Information Center.

Mr. Conroy, who also serves on the JPA board of directors and chairs the Music at McClellan series, says he and area officials are keeping their eyes on the “global cultural development picture” and exploring how McClellan can fit into it. According to a recent article in the Anniston Star, the non-profit arts industry produces $36.8 billion in annual revenue.

To foster this cultural development, the JPA has entered into an additional partnership with the Alabama State Council on the Arts and, according to JPA Director Dan Cleckler, a series of planning meetings will be held this summer. Several units of the council have visited McClellan to look at the possibility of locating there. These units include the Alabama Writer’s Forum; Design Alabama, the architectural arm of the Council; the Alabama Dance Council; Alabama Folklife Association; and the Alabama Alliance for Arts Education.

Architects associated with Design Alabama are drawing plans to show reuse concepts involving a cluster of historically preserved buildings at McClellan that might be used for performances, educational ventures, studio space, and retail establishments. A next step is to approach developers, foundations, and banks to seek ideas and funding to implement the plans.

In a related matter, two JSU professors, Dr. Steve Whitton and Ms. Judy McKibbin, took part in a panel discussion earlier this year to further the possibility of establishing a writer’s residency program at McClellan.

First Draft, The Journal of Alabama Writers’ Forum (AWF), featured an article in its spring edition titled “Literary Possibilities at McClellan.” Potential development of several literary programs on the McClellan property were outlined.

The article recognized the contributions toward literary awareness in Calhoun County made by JSU English Department’s “On the Brink” program and the Southern Playwrights Competition.

Dr. Whitton and Ms. McKibbin, both English professors, spoke at a luncheon attended by board members of the Alabama Writers’ Forum. Others who contributed information to the board were Ms. Bonnie Seymour, head of the Public Library of Anniston-Calhoun County and co-director of Accent on the Author, and Mr. Bruce Lowry, book page editor at the Anniston Star.

Current and future discussions between the council and the JPA will also consider the implementation of summer camp programs for art students of all ages.

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