Courtesy of Sally Johnson
Bluff Park Art ShowHenry Kimbrell and his band provide music at the Art Show.
In 1963, there was no library at Bluff Park Elementary School. For a student to check out a book, he or she would visit the principal, who would go into her coat closet and retrieve it.
As soon as she noticed the need, Sally Johnson got involved.
“I asked [the principal], ‘Wouldn’t you like to have a real library?’” Johnson said. “She replied that the county wouldn’t let them because they were an independent grammar school.
“I thought, ‘We’re going to change that.’”
That year, Johnson and other school parents hosted the Bluff Park Elementary School “Come as Your Favorite Book” dance, where gawky children gathered in literature-themed costumes. On the outside, it was a fun evening, but the event’s true purpose was to provide a better library for all. The dance raised $600, a promising first step. But it still wasn’t enough. Their next thought was to turn to their hobbies.
At the time, Johnson and her best friends held nightly gatherings where they painted together in her basement. She had an idea, and the following year, the Bluff Park PTA sponsored an art auction featuring local artists and raised $850 for the library. The year after, Johnson and fellow library supporters formed a nonprofit organization and put on a successful art show, and a chain reaction for art appreciation began.
The Bluff Park Art Show was born.
“Fifty years later, we are still best friends,” Johnson said. “To know these people and have lived with them, I couldn’t ask for a better life. There is a character here that you will not find anywhere else. These people are so unselfish. It’s Bluff Park. It’s just how it is.”
On Oct. 5, the Bluff Park Art Show will celebrate its 50th anniversary. The event has been named one of the top 10 events for 2013 by the Alabama Tourism Department, and like years past it’s predicted to host thousands in the hilltop community.
“It’s hard to be in suburbia and find an art show that’s lasted this long,” said Jason Tucker, a 13-year resident and pastor at Bluff Park Community Church.
Held each year at Bluff Park Community Center, the show features the works of more than 140 artists, a bake sale, pit barbecue and live music. Children have an array of crafts to keep them occupied and are also given the opportunity for special art opportunities provided by the Shades Mountain Women’s Club. Bluff Park Art Show Chair Jeff Pierson said the event is one that generations of families enjoy.
“We have patrons who tell us that they were brought to the show as children, brought their children and are now bringing their grandchildren,” Pierson said.
Artists are invited to submit one piece of their work to win prizes in several categories. The overall winner will receive $3,500 and the Bluff Park Art Association Permanent Collection Purchase Award.
This year’s 50th anniversary event has attracted a talented lineup of more than 140 local and long-distance artists, each with his or her unique ability to reach a community with a creative talent. Art annually displayed includes painting, photo-graphy, jewelry, metalwork and all types of crafts that dazzle the eyes and captivate the soul. Two of this year’s Hoover artists include Brittany Carol Moore and Toby Klein.
Moore works with film and digital photography and urges her viewers to use their imaginations to delve into the surreal aspects of her work.
“Although I have only been in the show twice, I grew up going to the show and went with my family every fall,” Moore said. “The goal of my art is to remove the view from reality.”
Klein’s longtime passion for art began in her childhood during an art class.
“I wanted to paint better than the girl sitting next to me,” Klein said. “To be a successful artist has been a lifelong dream of mine since high school.”
Post retirement, Klein devoted more time to her work, and today her dream has materialized into reality. Klein’s work is displayed at the Hoover Public Library, Temple Beth El, Alabama Power and other places statewide.
“My watercolor has evolved through the years,” Klein said. “I just want my work to be different.”
Pierson is proud to see the dedicated efforts of Johnson and other founders come to fruition. He said it has been an exciting yearlong commemoration, but it all comes down to the main event this fall.
“If you think back to the events happening in the Birmingham area 50 years ago, you realize that amidst the turmoil of that era, different groups of concerned individuals were working toward the common cause of the betterment of their children’s lives in whatever forms those concerns took,” Pierson said. “The fact remains that we are here 50 years later because of the imagination and dedication of a group of PTA mothers who wanted a library for their children.”
Dan Browning – Woodworking
Karen Dixon – Glass
Robin Fuller – Woodworking
Marla Kenney – Painting
Toby Klein – Mixed Media
Brittany Carol Moore – Photography
Jayne Morgan – Painting
Emily Nelson – Mixed Media
Nevin Newton – Woodworking
Trisha Robinson – Painting
Mary Sowell – Mixed Media
Walt Stricklin – Photography
Sherri Van Pelt – Glass