Curtain falls for last time on Upshur County Arts Council
by MARY L. KIRBY
Sep 23, 2012 | 1477 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mirror Photo / Mary Laschinger Kirby<br>
RECEIVING A GIFT of $3,250 from the Upshur County Arts Council are members of the Historic Upshur Museum. From left are Jack Hamil, Nan Fowler, Annette Breazeale of the Arts Council, Steve Stewart, president of the Historic Upshur Museum, Joy Valenti, Sarah Monk and Paula Hill. After 23 years, the Arts Council is disbanding, and they gave their remaining funds to the museum.
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Annette Breazeale, a founding member of the Upshur County Arts Council, presented Historic Upshur Museum president Steve Stewart with a check for $3,250 Thursday. Mrs. Breazeale and Sarah L. Greene were members of the Council’s Board of Directors from the beginning.

The council was founded in 1989. Its mission was “Bringing the Arts Home.”

As the 20th-year flyer said, grants from the Texas Commission on the Arts, Mid-America Arts Alliance and the National Endowment for the Arts helped fund the seasons. Due to budget crunches at every level of government and the nonprofit sector, funding has dried up, making it necessary to shut down the Arts Council.

The same crunch in funds for nonprofit organizations has affected the museum.

“We are really having a struggle,” said president Stewart. “We can use this money. We appreciate the help.”

Some of the productions the Arts Council brought to Gilmer, using the Gilmer Civic Center for all of them since 1996, were:

Fort Worth Chamber Orchestra, Denton Civic Ballet, Light Crust Doughboys, Ann Heligmann and Isador Saslav on piano and violin; Johnny Gimble, University of North Texas One O’Clock Lab Band; Always Patsy Cline, Route 66 Musical, Hughes Brothers of Branson, Tyler Big Band, Dallas Wind Symphony. smaller musical groups such as the Tin Roof Tango, and performances of area barber shop groups and the chorus from Kilgore College.

The earliest programs were in the Trinity Street Gymnasium, but that changed in 1996.

Barbara Conrad, a native of Camp County and frequent visitor to Upshur County, opened the Gilmer Civic Center with a performance with a Community Chorus in 1996 and returned twice more for popular engagements.

On her third visit, members of the Texas Historical Commission were filming her rehearsals, performances, and interviews with friends and relatives. Materials from that visit were included in the documentary of her life, When I Rise.

The film documents “the uplifting story of Barbara Smith Conrad, a gifted University of Texas at Austin music student who finds herself at the epicenter of racial controversy in 1957, struggling against the odds and ultimately ascending to the heights of international opera.

“In 1957, Barbara Smith Conrad, who was part of the first racially integrated undergraduate class at The University of Texas at Austin, became the central figure in a civil rights storm that changed her life forever.

“Despite losing her role opposite a white male performer, Conrad chose to stay at The University of Texas at Austin and complete her degree, graduating in 1959. This smalltown girl, whose voice and spirit stem from her roots in East Texas, emerged from the incident to become an internationally celebrated mezzo-soprano and headliner on stages around the world.”

When I Rise is a production of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History which premiered a few years ago and was shown at Northeast Texas Community College in 2011.
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