In 1993, the Chamber of Commerce in Cleveland, Tennessee determined that “quality of life” was one of the pillars of a strong community, with artistic offerings and arts-based endeavors being a strong component of establishing that quality, and also important in business and industry recruitment. Mr. Gene Stinson, then Executive Director of the Chamber, began discussions with a few local arts supporters, and thus established the presence of a council to promote, encourage and support the arts in our region.
Organization brought necessary fundraising, and early attempts were a bit comic. “Rocking for the Arts” created a day of rocking in the chairs outside the Cracker Barrel while holding signs advertising – for a fee – local businesses, organizations and political candidates. In a subsequent year, an “auction” of donated arts-based “chairs” gave foundation to “Chair-rees Jubilee”, an exciting fundraiser that became integral to the dispersion of $450,000 into the classrooms of Cleveland and Bradley County through teacher-written grants.
The AAC has also been the recipient of many thousands of grant dollars from the Tennessee Arts Council, funding a series of outdoor community concerts that continued for 15 years, and were offered free to the public. Acts ranged from local choirs to Leon Redbone, Karen Peck & New River, The Cumberland County Playhouse, and Goose Creek Symphony.
The 1996 Olympic Arts Festival, “Summerfest”, ran concurrently with the Olympic games on the Ocoee River, and was a successful blending of arts activities and arts presentations highlighting our community as the world turned its eyes onto the Ocoee River.
AAC has also been the sponsor of several theatre and dance productions over the years. A highlight was Peter Pan, presented as a ballet for student dancers, and featured the actual “flight” of students on the Lee University Dixon Center stage.
Throughout these 25 years, the Allied Arts Council membership has been composed of many different community leaders, and a few dedicated souls who have spent great hunks of their lives investing in children, community, cultural advancement and enrichment of our small corner of the Ocoee Region.
“Art is Here” began as a slogan for the council several years ago and has transformed into an action group of local artists. The Art is Here Partnership serves as the advocacy and outreach arm of this latest endeavor of the Allied Arts Council to raise awareness of the arts in Cleveland/Bradley County.