Rogersville isn’t only one of the oldest cities in the state of Tennessee, its people are also some of the most talented. That's a point being brought to light by a very talented lady in her own right, Guerry McConnell.
The singer, songwriter, storyteller and artist wears one more hat, perhaps even more proudly than the pin ties or soda can ear rings she creates and displays at the Local Artists Gallery. She is a member of the Rogersville Art Council.
“I can’t get over how much talent we have in this area,” she said. “I just want everyone to see and experience what I think is so wonderful.”
McConnell adopted Rogersville as her hometown in 2003 after growing up in Highlands, N.C. Before that, she spent 30-plus years in Nashville in different jobs, mainly trying to pursue her dreams of becoming a country star.
It was in 1982 that she first came to the area after hearing about a storytelling festival in Jonesborough. She enjoyed it so much she continued to come back to the area for the event. There, she met Rogersville native and storytelling great Doc McConnell. For many years, they were both involved in the statewide storytelling association. After each of them lost their spouses, the two would eventually marry in 2001.
“I loved Doc as a person and I knew what he was going to go through,” she said about getting in touch with Doc after his wife died in 1999. “I wanted to help him through that tough time.”
At first, the couple split their time between Nashville and Rogersville. In 2003, they decided to make the complete move to Rogersville.
But it was in Nashville where McConnell learned some of her skills that she still hones today. Besides performing in Nashville and across the country, she worked for years as a tour guide and later even ran her own tour company, which showed her how vital tourism can be for an area.
“I just love Rogersville,” McConnell said. “And, in a small town, I feel like I can make more of a difference. Our community allows for a lot of creative expression. Also encouraging is the fact that Tennessee Arts Commission and local donors financially support the efforts of the council.”
The council’s goal in the community is to help establish programs that stimulate and support the development and appreciation of the arts for citizens of Rogersville and Hawkins County which, McConnell added, they do for all arts, visual and vocal.
For art enthusiasts, there is a revolving gallery at the historic Hale Springs Inn. General Manager and Art Council member Asher Henson is a vital key to this. Each month, his First Tuesday Arts Opening reveals the new exhibit. Drinks, hors d’oeuvres and music are free for patrons to enjoy. The works of the exhibit are available for viewing and purchase throughout the entire month.
That is just one of the many events that the Art Council hosts throughout the year. It seems they have something for every season.
Each summer, they host a Broadway drama camp directed by Amanda Campbell for kids between grades 3 and 12. During the past two years, the children performed "The Little Mermaid Jr." and "Annie Jr."
On Nov. 9, the council hosted a Handmade Gifts and Toy Show at the Rogersville Playhouse, which gave the artists the chance to show off and sell their work. The event was such a success it will now take place each November, according to McConnell.
But that is just a taste of the cultural activities that the people of the area are being exposed to through the council. On Sunday, April 6, Singers of United Lands (this year from Croatia, Taiwan, Nigeria and Uruguay) will perform a matinee, followed by a performance at Volunteer High School the next day. At the end of April, the council will be hosting the Appalachian Spring Festival which McConnell will be producing. The showcase presents areas musicians, actors and dancers. Spots are still open for musicians and square dancing teams.
For information, contact the Rogersville Art Council at 423-293-0882. Other information is available on their Facebook page and on the website at www.rogersvillearts.org.