DOTHAN, Alabama – September 11, 2018 – The Wiregrass Museum of Art (WMA)
is pleased to announce it has been awarded $20,000 from the Alabama Bicentennial Commission in support of Stories of the Wiregrass, a collaborative project to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Alabama’s statehood. Previous funding for bicentennial activities was awarded from the Alabama State Council on the Arts to produce exhibitions in 2017 and 2018, including Museum of Wonder, Alabama Reckoner, and this year’s public sculpture exhibition, Semiotic Compass. This additional funding from the Alabama Bicentennial Commission recognizes WMA’s excellence as a leader in community engagement through visual art and will provide extended public programming into 2019.
Semiotic Compass, a public sculpture project created by Jason Schmidt and Mike Riddle that debuted this summer in WMA’s garden, will expand its reach with a companion website for the submission, archiving, and promotion of oral histories and stories from Wiregrass residents. The sculpture’s design is intended to provoke meaningful connections for visitors to its physical site, and the companion website will continue in the same spirit by honoring the stories and histories of those living in the Wiregrass that are collected during the bicentennial celebration. WMA will work with communities throughout the Wiregrass region in Houston, Dale, Coffee, Henry, Barbour, Covington, Crenshaw, Pike, and Geneva counties to gather diverse stories with the goal of making them accessible to the general public.
The Stories of the Wiregrass website, StoriesOfTheWiregrass.com, will host information on other bicentennial activities in the region through a events listing page. Funding will also support work with artists Jared Ragland and Cary Norton to bring their portable darkroom to the Wiregrass to create portraits of area residents through tintype photography. This component of the project will blend historical art techniques with contemporary stories and feature multiple portraits for each county on the website.
“Stories of the Wiregrass will perform an important function for this significant moment in our state history. Capturing the stories of our people and their families, and preserving them for generations to come, is such an appropriate undertaking for the Bicentennial. What really stood out to the Commission is the creative and innovative way the project will do this. Blending the verbal and the visual is what makes the Stories of the Wiregrass project unique and valuable. What we hope it results in is more people in more places having the chance to experience and participate in the commemoration,” said Jay Lamar, executive director of the Alabama Bicentennial Commission.
In addition to the artist-led work and the online sharing components, WMA will create curriculum-based lesson plans related to the storytelling theme of Alabama’s bicentennial. Lesson plans will be designed to encourage students to collect oral histories and stories from relatives, community members, and people they admire. Lessons will be organized by grade levels, considering state art standards, and will also provide various options for methods in collecting stories such as writing, video, audio, etc. These lessons will be free to access through the interactive website for all educators interested in incorporating the bicentennial into the classroom.
“We’re grateful to partner with the Alabama Bicentennial Commission for our final year of bicentennial programming, focused on storytelling. Their support will allow us to connect with more residents across the Wiregrass region, providing a platform for our community to share and archive their stories for generations to come. This is truly a regional program which will use art to connect people of all backgrounds,” said Dana-Marie Lemmer, WMA’s director.
The Stories of the Wiregrass website will launch in the coming weeks and will feature submitted stories, a bicentennial events listing, and additional artist components as it progresses in 2019.
About the Wiregrass Museum of Art
The Wiregrass Museum of Art inspires a lifelong appreciation for the visual arts by providing innovative educational programs that engage diverse audiences through the collection and exhibition of quality works. Since its founding in 1988, WMA has offered educational programs, nationally-acclaimed art exhibitions and community events throughout the year. Its Board of Trustees guides the long-term vision and strategic goals, while its membership, City and County support, and grant funding provide the resources needed to fulfill its mission. Because of the scarcity of art education in schools, the WMA Board of Trustees and staff have the responsibility to provide quality, accessible exhibitions and to reach out into the community through art education efforts. WMA fills crucial cultural needs in the Wiregrass area.