The Arts Association in Newton County has unveiled their 2008-2009 Arts Series. This year's lineup includes such noted acts as John Berry and internationally renowned pianist Joyce Yang as well as favorite local performers, The Community Band and The Covington Regional Ballet.
"One of our goals every year is to bring as diverse a series as possible," said Buncie Lanners, executive director of the Arts Association. "What we hope will happen is that people will come to one thing they really like and then cross over to other things they know nothing about. Education and exposure are really of the utmost importance to what we do."
With the economy being what it is, Lanners said the Arts Association worked hard this year to provide as many free and low-cost events as possible. There are six free events this year, including two fall concerts on the Covington square. For the paid events, no ticket is more than $27, with most tickets costing around $20.
"If you come to any of our events, you find that the level of the quality of the performance is extraordinary for a community of our size to have those offerings," Lanners said.
The 2008-2009 Arts Series kicks off on Sept. 13 with a free afternoon performance of Seth Decker & The Missing Piece Family Concert on the Covington Square to coincide with the Literacy Festival.
Jazz saxophonist Angella Christie will be the second performance of the season with another free concert on the square on Sept. 26. Christie has gained a following recently as one of the "world's greatest gospel saxophonists."
"We want to also build bridges within our community and think that's a really important goal," Lanners said, adding that she hoped the Christie event would enjoy the broad community success that last season's jazz violinist Ken Ford did.
South Korean artist Joyce Yang, who in 2005 was awarded the silver medal at the prestigious Twelfth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, will perform at Porter Hall at Newton High on Nov. 1. Tickets range in price from $10 - $20.
"Joyce Yang is one of the top pianists in the world," Lanners said. "If you were to see her in Atlanta, you'd be paying a whole lot more."
There are four events during the holiday season this year. John Berry will start off the season in Covington with a Nov. 22 performance at Porter Hall. Berry is one of two country music artists to perform in the art series this season. Tickets are $10 - $27.
"He is beloved and this is his third visit in our programming," Lanners said. "We always sell out. He gives a wonderful Christmas performance."
Following Berry, are three performances that have become a tradition in Covington - the Newton County Community Band Christmas Concert (Dec. 1, Eastside High, admission is free), Christmas in Covington with the Oxford Singing Children and the Oxford Youth Singers (Dec. 5, 6, First United Church of Covington, $10 - $15) and The Covington Regional Ballet's presentation of The Nutcracker (Dec. 13, 14, Porter Hall, $10 - $22).
While the Community Band has enjoyed 15 years of popular success in the county, this is the first year it was formally included in the Arts Association's Arts Series.
"They to do great work in this community and it was time for them to be spotlighted," Lanners said.
The second country artist in the Arts Series is Rusty Evans, who along with his band, Ring of Fire, will perform A Tribute to Johnny Cash on Jan. 24 at Porter Hall. Tickets are $10 - $22.
"We think that's going to be a really good concert," Lanners said. "This artist is phenomenally like Johnny Cash."
The Arts Series also includes several visual art exhibits. Images of Western Art & Artists, an exhibit featuring sculptures and paintings of the American West by artists Joe Halko and W. Steve Seltzer will run from Oct. 6 through Oct. 24 at Oxford College. The exhibit is free to see, though there is a $20 admission fee to attend a Western Party with Halko on Oct. 16.
During the month of March, residents can stop by the Newton County Library to view the True Colors Youth Art Exhibit, which will feature the art of area students. At the end of the season, the Arts Association will host a Creative Kids Camp, June 8 - 12 at Oxford College. The fee is $200.
"When I look at the goals of this organization, obviously education is so key," Lanners said. "When we are educating our children in the arts, we are preparing them better academically."
Dallas Brass, a full complement brass and percussion ensemble will play tunes from America's colonial past all the way up to present day. Prior to their evening's concert on March 6 at Porter Hall (tickets are $10-$20) the Dallas Brass will give a one-day in-school residency for the county's high school band performers who will later perform with the group during the evening's concert.
"That's going to be a unique concert," Lanners said. "We've had brass groups before and they've been very popular."
Rounding out the season, the Covington Regional Ballet's spring show this year will be a production of Sleeping Beauty (May 1, 3, Porter Hall, $10 - $18). The Oxford Youth Singers and Oxford Singing Children will also give a performance of "Guys and Dolls" April 17, 19 at Porter Hall. Tickets are $10 - $15. The Community Band will give a second free concert in the spring at Eastside High on April 27.
The Arts Series will conclude its season with the second annual Art on The River and Dance. Held on May 9 at the Porterdale Mill Lofts alongside the Yellow River. The event will feature the Uptown Entertainment Band, which will be playing the sounds of Motown and soul from the 70s and 80s.
"It's going to be a full season with a lot of opportunities," Lanners said. "We want people to try one thing at least, see what they like and keep coming back."