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Colquitt tells its 'Different Story' differently! Global Biennial 2010

Peanut Farmer Monument to 2010 and a Brilliant Review of Colquitt's achievements

The 7th Global Biennial Murals Conference took place in Colquitt, Georgia, USA, October 2010. It was an occasion long awaited since the community's designation in Prestonpans in 2006, but what was presented was very much worth the wait!

Arriving in the town the monumental 100' high artwork created by Charlie Johnston [above] could be seen from all directions. But its official dedication was preceded by comprehensive analysis and presentations of the way the arts have been deployed to revitalise Colquitt obver the past two decades. Not least, the Conference delegates from across the globe were treated to special private performances of MayHaw and Swamp Gravy. And there were murals tours out to neighbouring Dothan, Alabma's Wiregrass Festival, Blakley's Cotton Hall and Donalsville Murals and Theatre. Cotton, let it be remembered was and is once again an important crop in Southern Georgia - as well as those peanuts!

It didn't start with murals in Colquitt ... it started with Story Telling ...

Throughout the week-long conference however, we were all constantly reminded that here in Colquitt was a community whose renaissance did not start with murals - as so many of us did! Their's started with grass roots Story Telling that became Swamp Gravy - telling history in a Gang Show format .... "I've got a story to tell ..."

As all artists know, a picture tells a thousand words, so let the photographs speak!

click to enlarge all images

N.B. Swamp gravy accompanies the fish and grits ... it's a blend of potatoes and onions and ... see it here below awaiting consumption! Side by side with Colquitt's first mural - Peace.

Less peaceful was the depiction of the town's two most notorious sons, the only prisoners ever to escape from Alcatraz. In their 'honour' inmates from the local prison created the mural and the escapees sister came to the Conference herself! A mural depicting the work of the Fire Service telling true stories stands next below [right].

Farewells for departing servicemen and a prankish tale at the train-station are also captured [first row below] in beautiful artwork across the town. Other stories told are in the swamps themselves and at the American Legion [row 2].

Talking of peanuts, delegates had the opportunity to see them being farmed as well as depicted on murals! They are first turned out of the earth and left to dry for four days before separation and storage.

The final three images show the Mayhaw Festival's private evening presentation in progress. Hosted from WMHAW Radio a fascinating and highly amusing stream of old songs and old yarns was offered. A brilliant evening's entertainment!

P.S. And Andrew Laurie, The Gothenburg's Chef, held his title to the Willie Park Trophy for the third year in a row. On a sweltering hot day he overcome everything the challengers could offer ....

Out-of-town Visits to Blakely, Dothan and Donalsonville

It was a delight to see just three of the neighbouring communities that are also much involved with the arts and murals. The Wiregrass Festival and Murals Programs of Dothan are spectacular. So too the theatrical recreation of early Indian times in Donalsonville. And Blakely has the distinction of a 1930s Franklin D. Roosevelt 'New Deal' Artwork inside its post office. The enterprising Manager there had arranged a most unusual celebration - her office was designated The Global Mural Station October 28th 2010 and issued now treasured first day covers [see below]:


The standard of presentations throughout, perhaps most intriguingly from Bruce Green of Georgia State's Economic Development Department, but also from Steffen Junemann of Chemainus trompe l'oeil fame, and Karl Schutz on that same town's new currency, was exceptional. So was the hospitality, Southern style all the way. So too were the Arts Council's facilities in the Cotton Hall and Tarrar Inn. But most of all ...

Most of all we all learnt that Story Telling can be transformed into 'musical' theatre, into Gang Show/ Stage Show format. That Everyone's Murals [and our writtten 'Tales of The Pans'] can be en-acted, and that each year an updated show can be presented. Here's a most considerable thought for 3Harbours in the coming years, perhaps with the Prestoungrange Players. And for many another town across the globe not least Chemainus with its fine new theatre in 2012?

Certainly other murals towns have tackled theatrical storytelling. We in The Pans relish the annual Battle Re-enactments and the countless cameos which are now taking place around the year against our Prestonpans Tapestry backdrop. But none of us have given it the consistent focus Swamp Gravy has sustained, carrying them across the nation on tour to New York and more besides.

The second abiding lesson from Colquitt was of the people behind the entire initiative and the omnipresent requirement to renew not only one's own community but the team leaders. Sharing the baton and passing the baton to others and to the coming generation remains a continuing challenge for us all ...

Published Date: November 11th 2010

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