The “Crossroads” Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit has left Morristown’s Rose Center, but residents on Monday night gathered to celebrate life in Morristown and what the future may hold for the city.
Those visiting the “Crossroads” exhibit were asked to fill out questionnaires. A discussion of the answers and a group activity were facilitated by Deb Miksa of HC*EXCELL and Jennifer Stoneking-Stewart, art teacher at Morristown East High School.
Among the most answered questions were “If you were granted one wish, what change for good would you make in your town,” and “If you were mayor, what would you do?”
Stoneking-Stewart had some East freshmen students compile collages recently that are displayed at Rose Center.
“I had the students take the inspiration of home/hometown to run with,” Stoneking-Stewart said.
Stoneking-Stewart and her students also looked at an artist named Remar Bearden, who made collages in his home area of Mecklinburg County, North Carolina near Charlotte and participated in the “Northern Migration” into Harlem and its renaissance in the 1920s.
“His work, which was collage-based, was based on home, (whether it be) in Harlem or Mecklinburg County,” Stoneking-Stewart said. “It has the rural roots, it has the urban roots. I showed my students both of those types and asked them to interpret what home or hometown was for them.”
The students’ collages depicted part city, part rural, according to Stoneking-Stewart.
“It was a really great way for them to build a space because I wanted to build depth while using collage,” she said.
The students had three days to build their collages.
“As part of this evening, we wanted to ask you for your input,” Beccy Hamm, director of Rose Center said. “We want to make this arts-based, that’s what we do.
Hamm‘s goal is to integrate the arts into the school system in Hamblen County.
“Ciriculum is so important for children and adults,” Hamm said. “We have learned a lot about the past and now, we’re moving forward.”
Hamm had an illustration showing downtown Morristown. She told of a story when a fictitious truck gets stuck under one of the overhead sidewalks.
“The grownups got the police, engineers and street department to figure out whether they should start chipping away at the overhead sidewalk,” Hamm said. “A child suggested letting some air out of the tires so the truck could pass through.”
Hamm said that grownups get stuck in certain ways where they think they “know the answers a lot of times and we’ve done it all.”
The arts can help people break out of those constraints and patterns of thinking, doing and problem solving that causes them to hit against the wall, according to Hamm.
Participants took on an art project to add to the mural of Morristown that was hung on a wall at Rose Center.
Among the least answered questions were “What would Morristown look like in 10 years?” Respondents to that question expressed concern that young people were leaving Morristown. Others expressed the desire for more money for education, more technology to keep our young people here.
Others expressed concern about downtown growth and more dining opportunities there.
Rose Center hosted the gathering, which began and ended with entertainment with Toby Gibson and Friends, and a barbeque buffet dinner from Holston’s Kitchen.
Jim Claborn had a storytelling segment, followed by Walters State Community College professor Dr. Marc McClure with a slide show called “The Southern Miracle.”