The arts culture and society here in LaGrange and Troup County continue to expand. With the population expected to grow by thousands and thousands of people over the next few years, the retail and industrial growth will be unprecedented. However, with all of this growth in different areas, it is more important than ever that the fine arts community also sees significant growth over the course of the next several years. In a recent meeting this past week, the LaGrange Art Museum announced their new Executive Director Laura Jennings. Jennings spoke with Troup County News about her background, her expectations with the LAM, and all of the potential for future growth.
Jennings’ history of travel and education gave her a great foundation for continued careers in the arts field. “I was born in France as an Air Force brat. I lived all over the world and ended up being a University of Georgia graduate and got a journalism degree. Over the years I’ve been involved in marketing, fundraising, Callaway Gardens, AT& T, and the Biblical History Center was my most recent job doing fundraising and marketing there. I’ve worked for newspapers and just a variety of different positions.”
Finally, Jennings made her way to the LaGrange Art Museum, a perfect fit for someone of her caliber. “I’ve lived in LaGrange twice. The first time, we moved here when I was about 23 years old and my husband was going to do a hospital administration residency. Coming from Athens, I needed something a little bit more creative, a more creative outlet. I signed up for a poetry writing class with a poet’s residence at the Chattahoochee Valley Art Association, which was what it was called at the time. I’ve always been involved with the museum in some capacity. I crave cleverness from writing to painting to performing and I find that here. My desire for cleverness is satiated here.”
Jennings shifted her focus to the LaGrange Art Museum and all that they have planned for the future. “On February 16th, we’re having an opening reception for the second LaGrange Southeast Regional. For many, many years we had the LaGrange Biannual Exhibit that was a national competition among artists. The decision was made two years ago to make it be a southeastern show to get more opportunities to southeastern artists. It’s a collaboration between the Lamar Dodd Art Center at La-Grange College and here which is great and it allows our local people to see into the minds of artists from places beyond where we are. [Another] annual event that we have is Art in Bloom and this year it’s going to be on May 3rd. It’s a benefit luncheon that celebrates women in the arts from our region and there are fresh floral arrangements combined with fine arts and a silent auction. That’s one of our big fundraisers.”
With the ever expanding population and growth here in LaGrange and Troup County, Jennings has a view of what the art community’s role should be in the years to come. “The thing about LaGrange that is separate from other small towns, I think of, for example, Serenbe have had to build an arts community from the ground up. We have had it forever. It has just bubbled up right from the ground and it continued to be supported over the years. It’s phenomenal, the talent that’s here. It’s fostered, encouraged, and I just can’t imagine that we won’t expand upon it as our population grows. Art continues to be underfunded [but] children crave it just like they crave air, food, and nurturing, and I hope that we will expand our reach to children. I hope that with more population we might attract more philanthropic corporations that really want to give a leg up to the arts community. When we recruit industry, manufacturing, and smaller businesses, we tout what an amazing arts community we have but then that’s it. It’s on the poster of what’s great about LaGrange but it’s not necessarily always supported to the depth that it should be.”
A final thought from Jennings proved to be about togetherness and teamwork, a vision that not only helps the LAM, but the community as a whole. “Collaboration is key for all of the arts. Since I have been here, LSPA and other arts organizations have reached out and have been anxious to do some more collaborating and I think that that’s going to be a real asset going forward.”
The author of this article can be reached via email at jandrews@ troupcountynews. net.