Arts organizations engage public at amphitheater

Arts organizations engage public at amphitheater
University of Alabama Creative Campus and The University of Alabama Department of Theater and Dance were two of the organizations at Community Arts Conversations at the Tuscaloosa Ampitheater. / CW | Katie Bennett

It was what happens when a circus meets a flea market, covering the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater stage in booths, banners, raffle tickets, carnival games, typewriters, quilts, Disney princesses, a robot and a librarian.

It was the first ever Community Arts Conversation, a free event lasting from 4 to 7 p.m., sponsored by the Tuscaloosa Arts Council, that gave artists across the county a chance to display their creative offerings, featuring a ballad by the Barbershop Harmony Society, a display of relics from Moundville Archeological Park, and even a man from the Tuscaloosa Public Library, each with a common purpose: to expose their existence to the common folk.

“We’re just trying to get the word out,” said Michael Causey, a student at Shelton State Community College who covered the table for the school’s arts program. “Some students don’t even know about it, and they go to Shelton State.”

“It’s a chance for all the arts organizations to come together under one roof – for the community to come out and see the organizations,” said Sandra Wolfe, director of the Tuscaloosa Arts Council.

The Council, based out of the Bama Theatre, acts as an umbrella cooperative for every facet of the creative community in Tuscaloosa.

“We have new organizations popping up,” said Kevin Ledgewood, the organization’s public relations director. Ledgewood said the event helped give a human face to the arts scene, especially larger outfits such as Kentuck and Theater Tuscaloosa.

“When you go to a production, you get to see this great performance, but you don’t get to talk to them,” he said. “You don’t get to know what goes on backstage…We always think of these things as organizations; we don’t think of them as people.”

Anna Sarcone and Kelsey Dinbon, both members of Alpha Gamma Delta sorority, haven’t been very involved in local arts since starting college.

“Not until now have I really noticed much of an art scene,” said Denbon, who came to Alabama from Austin, Texas. “But it’s nice to see this.”

“I don’t think Tuscaloosa really screams ‘arts,’” Sarcone said. “It’s cool to see the artsy side of Tuscaloosa.”

The event served not only as a chance for outreach but for creative organizations to network within the arts community itself. UA poetry club Pine Slash Press hoped to recruit some dancers for their upcoming Poetry Walk, and off-beat theatre troupe Rude Mechanicals aimed to strengthen ties with other theatre groups in Tuscaloosa.

“We often get in the niches of our own worlds,” said Deborah Parker of Rude Mechanicals. “This opens up conversations so perhaps we can do more collaborative efforts.”

While Tuscaloosa may not be a likely stop for Wicked or Cirque du Soleil, Ledgewood said he believes personal connection of arts in smaller places gives the city that something that is missing in more happening scenes like Birmingham or Montgomery.

“In larger cities, the organizations are so spread out,” he said. “Being a little bit smaller, we know each other.”

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