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Millennium ProjectMillennium Project
Painter stirs residents to art

Published August 2000

The Tennessean

Story by Russel Mobley

The energy of children is being harnessed for a large-scale art project in Tullahoma.

Students at four Tullahoma elementary schools are helping create Tennessee’s contribution to a nationwide millennium art initiative.

The project, “Arts and Communities: America Creates for the Millennium,” is being coordinated by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, with the blessing of the national Endowment for the Arts and the White House Millennium Council.

In each state, an art project is being created in a collaboration of artists and community members. The 56 participating artists range from storytellers to sculptors.

Tennessee’s host site, Tullahoma, has chosen a North Carolina painter to steer its project, Jeremiah Miller, who paints large-scale works, will live in Tullahoma for the next three months as a “polyptych” is born.

Consisting of hinged panels and a sliding grid section, the portable polyptych will measure 11 feet in height and will stretch to 64 feet wide when the hinged wings are fully opened.

The structure, which will be placed in a park, will hold sections painted by Miller, fourth-grade students, senior citizens and other local residents.

Lucy Hollis, director of the Tullahoma Fine Arts Center, said the project aims to document the nation at the turn of the century.
“We are all aware that the arts are the last thing to get funded,” Hollis said. “And it was so nice that was one of the ways they wanted to document the history — through the arts.”

The theme of Tullahoma’s painting is the environment, Hollis said, and it will be “reflective of the natural landscape and waters found throughout Tennessee.”

The project is partly funded by Mid Atlantic and the Tennessee Arts Commission’s Arts Build Communities program. But much of the support has had to come from the community itself.

Hollis believes Tullahoma’s record in helping promote the arts had a lot to do with it being chosen as the host site.
“Everyone in Tullahoma that puts a stroke on that is going to remember it,” Hollis said of the painting.

The first strokes were applied yesterday by fourth-graders at Farrar Elementary School.

Ariel McGee, 9, a specialist in cloud images, said there are some fringe benefits in making “a beautiful artwork” — “You get to be messy and you get out of class,” she exclaimed gleefully.

Miller gently guides the children as they begin the “layering” process that he hopes will mature into the completed polyptych.

He sees his role in the project somewhat like that of a symphony conductor. “But there will be times I will go and play horn for a while,” he said.

He will contribute the core painting. The community will do the rest.

Miller has conducted many similar collaborative projects over the years with children and adults.

“You plan these very carefully,” Miller said. “But if we get proper community involvement, (the painting) should take on a life of its own.”

The children’s spontaneity almost guarantees to give the art piece a spark of life.

After just one hour of painting, Terrence Hill, 10, has re-evaluated his future goals.

“I’ll probably play professional football for a year, then be an artist for two years, then go back to a professional football player,” Hill said.

Miller sees the children as kindred souls.

“Kids have the right spirit,” he said. “They haven’t reached the age where they are concerned about the financial and political – they just want to express themselves. And that’s the way I am.”

Created with a grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission         Hosted by         Design by Russel Mobley
Copyright © 2001 – 2006, Tullahoma Fine Arts Center, 401 South Jackson Street, Tullahoma, TN 37388 Phone: 931.455.1234.