Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

December 16, 2013

CACE leader retires


CROSSVILLE — After ten years in the leadership role of Cumberland Artisans for Creative Expression (CACE), Sharron Eckert will be turning the presidency over to newly-elected Gary Pass.

"It has been a successful 10 years for CACE, and this is an appropriate time to pass the leadership position to another capable person," said Eckert.

Eckert was one of the founders of CACE, which began in 2003 with a small group of dedicated people who were interested in promoting all of the cultural arts in Cumberland County, including visual arts, performing arts and literary arts.

If "all things were new," it would have been logical for CACE to function as a "chamber of the cultural arts" for the more than 40 organized cultural groups in Cumberland County. However, given the typical Tennessee value of independence, even by those who have been transplanted to this state, CACE was careful not to do anything that would indicate any infringement into any event or organization.

Therefore, more quietly and often behind the scenes, CACE decided to promote, to encourage and to be knowledgeable about those cultural arts organizations. Now, in 2013, with a location within the Shanks Center for the Arts on Main St., CACE has the opportunity to distribute printed materials and to be the "go-to" place for inquiries about the various cultural arts organizations of Cumberland County.

During its first 10 years of activities, CACE has had art festivals, has featured artist demonstrations during its monthly meetings, scheduled public art exhibits at Crossville City Hall and scheduled artist demonstrations during the Cumberland County Fair. The collection of art supplies for schools is appreciated by students and by art teachers. A Cultural Symposium in 2008 was a time when representatives from many organizations met to network with each other. A "Day with the Attorney" in 2009 was a workshop for 43 participants based on the legal aspects facing individual artists and non-profit organizations.

One of the most ambitious CACE projects was the studio tours in 2008, when on four successive Sunday afternoons in four geographical areas of Cumberland County (Tansi, Fairfield Glade, Pleasant Hill and Cumberland Cove) many artists, many volunteer, and many guests thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated visiting "real studios of real artists."

CACE’s priority annual project is the Youth Expo with its two goals of exhibiting student visual art and music and offering experiences in traditional and modern arts, crafts, music and creative writing.

"The Youth Expo is managed on a bare-bones budget of approximately $4,000, but it has over $15,000 donated in tangible or in-kind services," said Eckert.

At least 100 volunteers work the actual day of the event, with many others spending hours before and after the event.

"The Youth Expo is truly a team effort," she added.

Coordinating the April 2014 Youth Expo will be Eckert’s last official responsibility for CACE.

Eckert was often asked to write articles and submit photographs for community features, such as the LifeStyle Magazine of the Crossville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce.

"One of the highest honors," said Eckert, "was when my own photographs taken during the CACE Youth Expo were on the cover of the LifeStyle Magazine."

It was Jim Crabtree and the Cumberland County Playhouse who gave CACE and its partner organizations the opportunity to manage and coordinate the Shanks Center for the Arts on Main St. in downtown Crossville.

"Although it is an old historic building, CACE volunteers have done a great job of transforming it into fine art galleries and have regularly scheduled art classes for youth and adults. It has been an awesome experience to work with over 300 participating artists. Each is unique in skill and creativity, spanning a range from painting instructors such as Eric Buechel and metal sculptors such as Jean Liberty," said Eckert.

One of the unique experiences was the cleaning of the former-outside brick wall of the building to reveal the painted sign "Your car properly lubricated for only $1." It took a team of volunteers many days, lots of cloths with water and patient scraping, all on ladders, Eckert noted.

"An undone project," she confessed, "is to research stories of people who were youngsters and came with their dad or granddad to have their car serviced. Those stories would be quite a collection of memories."

According to Eckert, one of the delightful aspects of leading the CACE organization has been the opportunity to promote artists in unexpected ways. An example is when Eckert pursued a young fine arts graduate of Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville and featured her "Colorful Clouds" in an exhibit at the Shanks Center.

"It was quite a task to locate her after graduation," Eckert claimed, "because she had married, thus changing her name and had moved to Nashville. When we did locate her, we discovered that all of the large canvases were unframed and stored under her bed in a small apartment. We scheduled a team of CACE volunteers to have a cloud assembling party. The young artist was delighted to have the opportunity to exhibit her works."

Another honor was when then-director Robert Safdie asked Eckert to coordinate an exhibit of fine art at the new Cumberland Business Incubator on the campus of Roane State Community College. Eckert chose distinguished artists from local and regional areas and gathered a team of CACE volunteers to prepare and manage the exhibit.

As for her future promised time, Eckert hopes to get back to her own creative artistic work, that of designing fine craft items with long-leaf pine needles. She does plan to continue to work with Ann Looney and the Arts RoundUp organization.

"It has been a great journey," Eckert stated. "I have had the privilege of working with so many fine, talented people. I wish the same wonderful experiences for the new leadership of CACE."