Schools Art Show to Be Included in Area Arts Festival


Hunter Birdwell and Ean Radford


Weakley County Schools Communications Director

WEAKLEY COUNTY (March 19) - Though last year’s inaugural Weakley County Schools Art Show successfully showcased nearly 200 students’ creative expressions, the possibility of repeating the visual art-focused event was in question for 2021. COVID-19 safety protocols prohibited the up-close-and-personal gallery-type experience of 2020.

Then Weakley Arts Can proved to be worthy of its name.

The small group of arts-in-the-schools advocates, many of whom are also on staff in the University of Tennessee at Martin Music Department, determined that the UTM model of “Live from the Tent” events would be a viable approach to celebrate music, theater, and dance. And when they learned of the need for a visual art platform, they quickly said, “We can!” and added the Weakley County Schools Art Show.

The Northwest Tennessee Arts Festival was born.

The event will utilize UTM Music’s large performance tent which can accommodate both a stage and socially-distanced viewing as well as high definition streamed video and audio projection for those enjoying productions from the adjacent parking lot or from their homes on UTM Music’s Facebook page. A second tent donated by the UTM Alumni Center and UTM Music will be installed to accommodate the top three painting, drawing, photography and 3D/sculpture/mixed media submissions from each school in Weakley County.

Set for April 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. outdoors near UTM Pacer Pond, the celebration of all things artistic will close the online application process on March 27. Already, organizers report that area singers, bands, dramatists, and dance groups of all ages have applied. Though the event includes the schools’ visual art show, the festival is open to performers of all ages.

“Sharing the resources that have allowed our UTM music students to continue to learn and grow when so many classes had to be online allowed us to maximize our investment and continue to support local arts,” said Dr. Julie Hill, chair of the UTM Music Department, and also co-president of Weakley Arts Can with Katie Mantooth.

Once the art show was set, schools began to plan for how to promote and secure entries from kindergarten – 2nd grades; 3rd – 5th grades; 6th – 8th grades; and 9th -12th grades. The deadline for those submissions is March 26. Schools will select their top three in each age band and category and those entries will be shown at the outdoor festival. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd place county winners will be announced at noon on April 10.

“We are very grateful to Weakley Arts Can and UTM Music for their support of our students,” said WCS Director Randy Frazier. “Not only will our young artists have a way to show their work, but several of our other students will be able to take the stage safely before a live audience and perform. Like so many of our successes during this very unusual year, we are dependent upon community support, and these great arts advocates have come through for us in a big way,” he added.

The live performances will also be broadcast on WUTM 90.3 FM.

Payton Mills and William Cantrell