Golden Selections

Published 2:11 am Saturday, October 14, 2017

Class of ‘68 opening 50th reunion with champagne, LAAC art show

When members of the Andalusia High School Class of 1968 return to Andalusia for their 50th high school reunion this coming week, they will share their lives with their hometown in unique ways.

Among them is an art show, “Golden Selections: AHS Class of 1968,” which will open Thursday night in The Gallery, which is home to the Lower Alabama Arts Coalition.

“We have a number of people in our class who are actually practicing artists,” Sue Williams Wiggins said. “I don’t just mean they do art. We figured out there were actually six, and that’s a pretty big percentage in a class of a little more than 100 people.”

The works of five of those artists will be on display in a show that Wiggins, whose career also has been in the art world, curated. The group has been planning their reunion, and this show, for almost two years.

“The show is something of a gift to our class and the community,” John Northrop, a printmaker and illustrator whose work is part of the show, said.

The show will also include with work of Bobby Barton, Margaret Sikes Land, Jacob Preston, and Bob Brooks.

Wiggins said she believes Andalusia was very supportive of individuality the time she and her peers were growing up. She attributes much of that to the progressiveness of Annalee Simmons and Clyde Simmons, both of whom were AHS English teachers.

Among the pieces in the show is Northrop’s “Fire Escape,” which will be displayed in memory and honor of Oscar Zeanah, late superintendent of Andy public schools, who appears in the piece.

“Mr. Zeanah is a personal hero,” Northrop said, “one of many Alabama educational leaders who led peaceful local transitions to integration in the ’60s.”

Northrop said his mother encouraged his creativity growing up in Andalusia.

“She saw that I liked to sketch, so she paid for private art lessons in late grammar school,” he said. “In our senior year, Curtis Thomasson allowed me to become a yearbook photographer, despite preferring a younger trainee who’d have been around for another year or two. Thanks to him, I was able to build photo skills I used to work my way through college and throughout careers in journalism.”

Land, who works in fiber, found inspiration from her mother’s sewing.

“My mother and aunt made clothes for my sisters and me, and I would play with the remnants,” she recalled. “I cut and draped them on my dolls to create (what I thought) were beautiful gowns.

“I later discovered cross stitch kits at Woolworth and bought those with my allowance, but always changed the thread colors from the garish ones included. Later I mail-ordered increasingly complex embroidery kits, and learned the stitches from their instructions.

“When I began putting beautiful fabric and embroidery together, I never looked back,” she said.

Preston is a ceramist who lives in South Carolina.

“My memory of growing up in Andalusia during the 1960s is mostly very positive,” he said. “Our neighborhood was at the edge of a large woodland, complete with gullies and streams to explore. Nature was the antidote for the vagaries of adolescence.”

While there were no art classes in the high school in the 1960s, the curriculum included music, drama, rhetoric and an overall emphasis on writing skills, he recalled.

“Linda Lattimer’s drama and speech program was one thing I didn’t properly appreciate at the time,” he said. “The ability to perform in front of an audience, as well as organize material in a coherent manner, has served me well in my professional life.”

He still finds inspiration in nature.

“The skills and inclinations developed in my first real home, Andalusia, are still with me,” he said. “Making pottery requires a coherent and intentional process to translate ideas to objects. The discipline of the process requires a focus that keeps me from going off the rails. “Paradoxically, the narrowing of choices opens the door to almost endless possibilities,” he said. “Such is the metaphor of clay.”

Brooks is a photographer, whose work appears in The Star News’ lifestyle magazine, South Alabama Living.

In the essay he shared to coincide with his class reunion, he, too, credited English teachers.

“Ms. Posey (Barbara) Posey believed in me and still does,” he said. “I found the first story I wrote for her class, ‘In My Back Yard.’ I’ve been reading and writing ever since.”

Barton worked with photography and assemblage, a term used for those who assemble objects into art forms. He was very excited about this show, but died in June after a long illness. Wiggins said the class will contribute a collection of his photographs to the city following the art show, in hopes it will be displayed in his memory.

Wiggins, the curator, has been building art collections for corporations since 1978. It’s a job she created.

“You don’t go to school to learn how to do that,” she said. “ I’m a product of all of that, too. My mother told me I could do anything I wanted to, so I did.”

Wiggins said she saw the Golden Selections show as an opportunity to share a glimpse of how people who were shaped by Andalusia and Andalusia High School have moved forward with opportunities.

The class also has published a booklet that tells class members’ stories. In addition to the gift of Golden Selections, the class plans to contribute to the AHS Scholarship Foundation.

The public is invited to view the champagne opening from 5 until 8 p.m. this Thurs., Oct. 19. The art will remain on display through Nov. 22.