2007-05-15 / Community

Creative Communities Conference a success here

(L-R) Karen Kimbrel, Ralph Wilcox and Joy Jinks (L-R) Karen Kimbrel, Ralph Wilcox and Joy Jinks If you saw some strangers walking around town May 2, 3 and 4, there was good reason! The Building Creative Communities Conference, the first conference ever held entirely in Colquitt, was going on at that time. Approximately 50 out-of-town guests and local citizens participated in the conference activities. The visitors came from seven states - Georgia, Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina.

The conference was a joint project of The City of Colquitt, Colquitt/Miller Arts Council, Colquitt/Miller County Chamber of Commerce, and the Community Development Corporation of Southwest Georgia. Platinum sponsors for this event were Ameris Bank, First State Bank of Colquitt and Georgia Council for the Arts.

The conference kicked off at 8:00 a.m. Wednesday morning with registration and breakfast at Tarrer Inn. Then everyone moved down to Cotton Hall for the opening ceremonies where they were welcomed by Miller County Commission Chair Barbie Womble, City Manager Cory Thomas and Chamber of Commerce President Veryl Garland Cockey. After introductions, the participants enjoyed lunch with keynote speaker, Richard Geer, co-founder of Swamp Gravy. Geer gave an inspiring speech that set the tone for the entire conference.

After lunch, two sessions were held - Oral History Gathering led by Sara Ann Keaton, Swamp Gravy story gathering chair (1992-present) with assistance from Swamp Gravy veterans, Ferrell Keaton and Gayle Grimsley; and Murals Creation led by Pat Bush with artist Cheryl Hardin and Karen Kimbrel assisting.

Participants then enjoyed a wine tasting sponsored by Still Pond Vineyards and a delicious plated dinner at Tarrer Inn, after which everyone was treated to a "Taste of Swamp Gravy, Visiting Hours" inside Cotton Hall.

Thursday morning started at 9:00 a.m. with continental breakfast at Cotton Hall and Storytelling Circles with Richard Geer, Joey Fargar, Social Circle, GA, and Swamper, Charlotte Phillips. Participants had two, 90- minute sessions with Geer in which they prepared their stories for the stage.

Next, a Funding Panel gave an overview of various programs their specific organizations offer and shared information and tips on available resources and grants. The panel was made up of Stone Workman, USDA Georgia State Director; Karen Paty, Georgia Council for the Arts Community Arts Manager; Laura McCarty, Georgia Humanities Council Vice-President; and Karen Kimbrel, consultant and former executive director of Colquitt/ Miller Arts Council.

Participants then had free time to explore Colquitt and shop. (According to the evaluations received our guests spent approximately $9000 while in Colquitt those two and one-half days.) After their shopping extravaganza, everyone enjoyed a dinner buffet at Tarrer Inn and a Storytelling Cabaret, presented by some conference attendees, and "A Taste of May-Haw" at Cotton Hall.

Friday morning after a Tarrer Inn breakfast, the group got on board two buses provided by Colquitt United Methodist Church and First Baptist Church of Colquitt with outstanding bus drivers, Kelly Summers and Wallace Phillips. Conference attendants had a grand tour of Colquitt which included the Movie Sound Stage, site for new Miller County Schools, Crooked Oak Golf Club, Pine Woods Apartments, Miller County Hospital, Spring Creek Park, The City Municipal Complex, Native American Monument, Chamber of Commerce Building, and the 11 murals. Tour guides were Charles Bevis and Adrienne Betts for the murals; and Cory Thomas and Billy Kimbrel for the city.

After the tour, everyone gathered back at Cotton Hall for a barbecue lunch prepared by Burnell Grant and his great staff and keynote speaker, Ralph Wilcox, Southwest Georgia Film Commissioner, who ended the conference on a high note.

All participants (except one) have requested that Colquitt repeat this conference next year. The evaluations overall were excellent.

The Conference Steering Committee members were Debra Atkinson, Elaine Chaphin, Veryl Garland- Cockey, Joy Jinks, Karen Kimbrel, Cory Thomas, and Jennifer Trawick. Once again Colquitt has proven that people who work together can accomplish anything!

Return to top