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May 2008

Muppets creator Jim Henson and his Atlanta Legacy

Almost thirty years ago, Vincent Anthony opened the doors to Atlanta’s own Center for Puppetry Arts. Cutting the ribbon that day was personal friend and Center supporter Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets and world renowned for his puppetry genius. Over the next ten years Henson would visit the Atlanta Center for Puppetry Arts and donate his time, talents and name to the organization. After his death in 1990, Henson’s family continued to support the Center, which is the largest of its kind in the United States. Recognizing the importance of the Center’s mission to entertain and enlighten audiences, nurture the world community of artists, expand the puppetry art form, and explore the past, present, and future of puppetry, Henson family members have donated their personal collection of Muppet memorabilia to the Center.

The Center for Puppetry Arts plans to open a new Jim Henson Wing in 2012. The facility will allow visitors to “travel to his early days on local Washington, DC television, proceed through the creation of the world-famous Muppets, and then journey into the breath-taking worlds of his fantasy films.” This exciting project will only be possible if the Center is able to raise the funds for the new building, which is designed to house hundreds of artifacts from Jim Henson’s personal collection. Until the new wing is complete, visitors can enjoy exhibits featuring some of the collection including “Jim Henson: A Man and His Frog” and “Jim Henson: Puppeteer.”

Visit the Center for Puppetry Arts website for more information at

A priceless discovery: hand-painted movie posters from Hollywood’s Golden Era

Some people are, with apologies to Shakespeare, “snappers-up of unconsidered trifles”. Sharpsburg native, Herb Bridges, fits that description perfectly. A lifelong fan of movie memorabilia, Bridges is best-known for his Gone With The Wind collection – at one time the world’s largest. So, when Bridges heard about a mysterious stash of movie posters that had surfaced in a storage unit in Carrollton, he just had to explore them. They proved to have a connection to his past and to be a glimpse into a little-known aspect of movie history.

The seventy posters were hand-painted at Atlanta’s Loew’s Grand Theatre by staff artists. As a teenager, Bridges worked as an usher at the Loew’s and the posters brought back memories of two very busy, very talented and rather abrupt artists working backstage. In an era when movies changed weekly and rarely re-ran, poster artists generally trashed their work or re-used the materials, making the Carrollton collection, painted by Sid Smith and Charles Reese Collier, rare and exciting. We may never know why these specific posters were saved or by whom, but Bridges is working hard to fill in the gaps in their history.

Savannah Music Festival features Steep Canyon Rangers bluegrass band

The Savannah Music Festival has grown to be world-class over the last 5 years, with nearly 100 concerts spread throughout the city over 17 days in late March and early April. This year the Charles H. Morris Center was inaugurated in a site dating from 1733 and one of the nation’s top new bluegrass groups was chosen to launch the venue. The Steep Canyon Rangers are a creative bunch of young guys who write their own music but are steeped in the traditions of the past.

The Rangers include : Graham Sharp (banjo, lead and harmony vocals), Woody Platt (guitar and lead vocals), Charles R. Humphrey III (bass and harmony vocals), Mike Guggino (mandolin and harmony vocals), & Nicky Sanders (fiddle and harmony vocals). Constant touring, intense rehearsing, and most importantly, creative songwriting, sets them apart from the field.

In 2006 the International Bluegrass Music Association voted Steep Canyon Rangers the Emerging Artist of the Year.

Savannah Music Festival

Interstitial: Clayton County Murals

Brightly displayed on the side of a building in downtown Jonesboro, Georgia is a set of mural paintings by artist Shannon Lake. The paintings depict stories of Jonesboro in the 1940’s & 50’s and are inspired by the novel “Separate Fountains” by Patti Wilson Byars. The murals can be seen at the Arts Clayton Galley in Jonesboro on South Main Street.

Arts Clayton

Linda Anderson, folk artist and memory painter

“I was horribly depressed. And this presence said that I would receive a gift.”In the winter of 1981, Linda Anderson’s spirits were at rock bottom. Her daughter, B.J., had suffered a stroke and needed Anderson’s constant care. But, as she sat by B.J.’s bed, Anderson was filled with a sense of hope and her life changed forever. The next morning, Anderson discovered she had a talent to paint, to tell stories from her childhood in colorful resonant images and to connect with a wide audience of art lovers. From moonshine stills to home childbirth, Anderson’s memory paintings depict a North Georgia that has now disappeared.

Anderson was born in Floyd County, in 1941. Her family was poor and the five children worked more than they played or studied. But it was a childhood enriched by community, faith and natural creativity – all of which can be seen in her works, which are filled with action, drama, humor and detail.

Over the years, Anderson has expanded her inspiration to include biblical stories, animals and movie stars. Today, she is considered one of the foremost living memory painters, one of a dying breed of rural folk artists.

Barbara Archer Gallery

Cold Sassy Tree at the Atlanta Opera

The Atlanta Opera launched its 2007-2008 season with a bold move into the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. Just as bold was the decision to feature a modern opera based on Cold Sassy Tree, a novel about life in rural Georgia at the turn of the 20th century.

A native of Georgia and writer for the ATLANTA JOURNAL, Olive Ann Burns wrote Cold Sassy Tree after finding out she had cancer at age 51. Based in the town of Commerce, Georgia in the early 1900’s, Burns tells the story of her great grandfather who scandalized the community when he married a much younger woman three weeks after the death of his first wife. Burns died in 1990, ten years before Carlisle Floyd’s opera of Cold Sassy Tree premiered at the Houston Grand Opera in 2000.

Carlisle Floyd is the dean of U.S. opera composers. His best known work is Susannah (1954), which has been performed and recorded more than any other opera in America. A native of South Carolina who currently lives in Florida, Floyd came to Atlanta during rehearsals and answered questions from both cast and crew.

State of the Arts follows the cast as they go through the rehearsal process with conductor Arthur Fagen and director John De Lancie. “Rucker Lattimore” is based on Burns’ great grandfather and is played by Kristopher Irmiter, who has performed the role four times. Carlisle Floyd wrote the role of “Will Tweedy” for John McVeigh, who has played Rucker’s grandson every time the opera has been performed in America. Erin Wall as “Love Simpson” and Georgia native Maureen McKay as “Lightfoot McClendon,” are both newcomers to their roles, which they perform brilliantly in the Atlanta production.

Our story ends on opening night of the Atlanta Opera’s production of Cold Sassy Tree at the Cobb Energy Centre. As the opera concludes, 81 year-old composer Carlisle Floyd is welcomed onstage to thunderous applause. Cold Sassy Tree has come home to Georgia.

For more information, visit the Atlanta Opera’s website:

Auguste Rodin exhibit at Oglethorpe University Museum of Art

The motto of the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art is "Knowledge Through Beauty," and over the years this small but impassioned Atlanta museum has featured artworks of the highest quality from around the world.

A recent exhibition Rodin: In His Own Words is no exception. If you missed the exhibit, which included thirty-five bronzes and a selection of original letters by the great sculptor, then you’re in for a treat.

Oglethorpe University Museum of Art