ARTISTS & COMMUNITIES:
AMERICA CREATES FOR THE MILLENNIUM
Tullahoma Art—Gone With The Wind
by Russel Mobley
August 22, 2012
On its march into the 21st Century, the Tullahoma Fine Arts Center has paused to erase a few of its footsteps.
The remaining panels of an art project, created for the nation-wide art endeavor Arts and Communities: America Creates For The Millennium in 2000, were recently tossed away as "just rotting wood."
The project was an initiative of the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the White House Millennium Council, to commemorate the nation's entry into the 21st Century and its commitment to the arts.
America Creates For The Millennium consisted of 56 projects throughout America involving a collaboration of artists and community members. The participating artists ranged from storytellers to sculptors.
Tennessee's host site was the Tullahoma Fine Arts Center. The center worked with North Carolina painter Jeremiah Miller to create a series of murals contained in a polyptych.
Miller, an artist known for large-scale paintings of nature, designed a portable polyptych, consisting of hinged panels and a sliding grid section. It measured 11 feet in height and stretched to 64 feet wide, when the hinged wings were fully opened.
The polyptych held sections painted by Miller and fourth-grade students and area residents.
The TFAC executive director in 2000, Lucy Hollis, hailed the Tullahoma project and those throughout the country as a wonderful opportunity to document the United States at the turn of the century.
“We are all aware that the arts are the very last thing to get funded,” Hollis said at the time. Adding she believed Tullahoma's record in helping promote the arts had a lot to do with it being chosen as the host site.
“Everyone in Tullahoma that puts a stroke on that is going to remember it."
The polyptych was installed in a small downtown park and was dedicated with a lot of fanfare in November 2000.
Although the public artwork was envisioned as an on-going project for "documenting changes in the local environment," according to the publication, Artists & Communities: America Creates For The Millennium, it remained on display for only a few months. After high winds damaged a section of the polyptych's metal frame, the City of Tullahoma dismantled the artwork. Several small panels, created by individual artists, were placed in the TFAC's Permanent Collection. However, the large panels painted by Miller and the community were placed outside of the center, exposed to the elements. Early this summer, the panels were still behind a small shed on the TFAC property, covered with a tarpaulin.
Annie Rone, who was recently selected as TFAC's new executive director, confirmed on Tuesday that the panels had been discarded because "the stacks of wood were rotten."
Rone said she was not aware of the painted panels' history.