The McKinney Center's renovated auditorium was the site for the Jonesborough Juried Art Show on Friday. (Dave Boyd/Johnson City Press)
The region was invited to take a look at the McKinney Center renovation progress as well as art produced by top-notch regional artists during the Jonesborough Juried Art Show on Friday.
Named for Ernest McKinney’s influence while the site was being used as the Booker T. Washington School, the McKinney Center was filled with people who have a passion for art and bringing the community together.
Lollie Surratt, McKinney’s sister, said she was thrilled to see the renovation’s progress, view some regional art and see people in the community come together.
“I’m really proud of my family. I feel like we are being highly honored,” Surratt said. “It’s just marvelous and there’s been a lot of improvement. When I see this school, I think about all the things that my mother taught us and all of the things that she wanted for us.”
Surratt said she is excited to return to the venue for the McKinney family reunion in July after the complete renovation is expected by mid June.
“I wish that he could have seen this dream come true,” Surratt said. “I just know that this is one of my mother’s dreams come true. I’m just very happy to be here on this occasion.”
The art show jurist, Steve Wicks, curator of the Knoxville Museum of Arts, said he was surprised to see how many strong works of art were featured.
“This bodes well for the future of this competition,” Wicks said. “Perhaps it has some momentum from the past that came back. Whatever it is, this is a great start for the new chapter of it.”
Wicks said he would love to come back to the town for future art endeavors.
“I look forward to coming back to the McKinney Center once it’s completely up to speed,” Wicks said.
McKinney Center Director Bridgette Ward said the former school’s repurposing as an art center has piqued the interest of the community.
“I think that the juried art show coming back to Jonesborough and being housed in Jonesborough at a beautiful facility where we can have it annually is very exciting for the people of Jonesborough,” Ward said. “With the opening of the McKinney Center we will be able to house the art show here every year.”
This year’s inaugural McKinney Center event showcased 71 works of art from 39 artists around the region.
Best in show winner Mira Gerard was given a certificate, which is a reproduction of the 1943 graduation certificate received by Booker T. Washington students, for one of her three submissions called “River of Forgetting.”
The ability to enter works of art into a local juried art show is very beneficial to the region’s artists and community as a whole, she said.
“For this region it’s vital, it’s more than a thrill,” said Gerard who is an ETSU associate professor of painting. “We need that here.”
Gerard said the art show helps the art community come together through a platform that showcases art to the community at large.
“For artists, it’s always important to get your name out there, be known in your community and beyond,” Gerard said. “We get to connect.”
Gerard especially thanked Jim Martin, husband of the late Mary B. Martin, for his support of the McKinney Center and art show. The center hosts the Mary B. Martin Program for the Arts.
“It’s because of people like Jim that the arts can flourish in a community like this,” Gerard said. “The community and the way it has embraced it — it’s just great to see everyone out tonight.”
Martin said the Jonesborough Juried Art Show is an attempt to rekindle the former art show known as the Bank Show, which was sponsored by First Tennessee Bank.
“It’s got a certain prestige associated with it,” Martin said.
The art show showcases the artist’s work but is also a testament to how important art is overall in the town of Jonesborough, Martin said.
“Everybody has always said that Jonesborough is art,” Martin said. “Jonesborough is strong in art.”
People may view the art entered into the show through June 14. The center will be open Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., Thursdays from 3:30-7 p.m. and Fridays from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.For another Johnson City Press story about the McKinney Center click here.