Corporate Member Spotlight: SunSouth Bank

The corporate member program at WMA is supported by diverse industries across the Wiregrass business community; what unifies them all is their belief in WMA’s ability to be a cultural-gathering place for local residents. Leila Smith, Vice President and Branch Manager of SunSouth Bank, spoke with WMA about how the arts can impact communities in positive ways. SunSouth Bank supports WMA as a Supporter level corporate member.

WMA: Leila, tell our members a little bit about SunSouth Bank. What’s important to your company’s culture?

Leila: SunSouth Bank began as the People’s Bank of Clio and, in 2002, its charter was moved to Dothan and the name changed to SunSouth Bank. We have deep roots in the community, as our bank location is in the historic Porter Thrower home. We’re a community bank that sees our customers like family, and we reinvest in our community so that the local economy can benefit our customers. We want the Wiregrass to know that when they support a community bank, they also support local small businesses and the arts. Another initiative that I’m proud of is our sponsorship of a women’s club called Bright Club, which meets quarterly to provide networking and speakers on topics that are of interest to the women in the area. We want to involve these women as leaders in different areas of the community, and plan to host a future event at WMA.

WMA: We’re thankful to have your bank’s support for the museum and its work with visual art. Why do you choose to help sustain WMA’s mission?

Leila: It’s exciting for us to be a part of promoting the museum because it is such a vibrant arm of preserving Dothan’s past and improving Dothan’s future. The museum encompasses so much in the arts — artists, education, entertainment, community outreach — and there’s something for everyone. The museum is not just about paintings and sculpture. There’s First Saturday Family Days, summer camps, Art After Hours, and of course, Yard Party for Art! I always feel welcomed and comfortable when I bring friends to visit.

WMA: You were a supporter of the museum before SunSouth joined through the corporate member program. Tell us a little bit about your interest in the arts.

Leila: When I was young, my family had the opportunity to travel in Europe, and I had big, overwhelming experiences in all the art museums that we visited. I’ve always had a theatrical flair, but in those places, I could really transform and get lost in the imagination of each piece I saw. I feel the same way when I come into WMA. Every exhibition is so different, some strange, some elegant, but all new and refreshing, and it’s a place where you can truly be imaginative and learn something from artists — and learn something about yourself, too. I think it’s really important that we’re bringing in students on field trips through the museum’s education programs, and that they have a place to be creative.

WMA: What direction would you like to see our region take in the future?

Leila: When I visualize Dothan and the Wiregrass in the future, I always see our area college students as an active part of the community. I think about the colleges in Columbus, Georgia, that have moved small branch campus locations to their riverfront downtown, and having students in those spaces has brought a real energy to the area. You can hear students practicing music and see them writing everywhere, and I think that it’s important that we bring more opportunities for local students to have a creative environment.

Youth Art Education Policy

Outside of tours, family days, and open house events, individuals who are not enrolled in a class are not allowed in WMA classrooms except by written permission of the Executive Director. Parents may not join children in the classroom during instruction times in order to ensure an atmosphere conductive to creativity. It is important to limit the number of adults to keep the focus on the kids, their learning, and to accommodate limited seating in the studio. Parents are welcome to stay in the museum during class but must remain outside of the classroom during instruction time.

Museum educators are experienced in creating positive learning environments for all ages and are required to go through a background check to ensure the safety of our students. Parents and guardians are encouraged to visit the studio at the end of class to see what their child has created. All docents and volunteers working with children are also required to go through background checks.

Thank you for understanding our policy and priority on the safety and well-being of participating students.

Throughout the year, WMA will host “Meet the Educator” days where parents and their children can come to the classroom to meet the instructor before beginning classes and camps. 2019’s schedule is as follows: January 30 from 4pm-6pm, May 29 from 4pm-6pm, and August 28 from 4pm-6pm.