Housing Sewanee: Goodbye Poverty, Hello Dreams

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

“She’s a freaking rock star,” said Housing Sewanee Board President Dixon Myers of client Marie Harmon. There is hyperbole in Myers’ comment, but not much. It is hard to exaggerate in praise of Harmon who while raising two sons overcame 13 years of addiction and started her own business. Housing Sewanee gave Harmon the leg up she needed to break the cycle of poverty. It is equally hard to exaggerate when praising the accomplishments of Housing Sewanee Inc. Over the past 30 years, HSI volunteers have built 20 homes for financially challenged residents who pay only for materials and what labor needs to be subcontracted out. Housing Sewanee’s 21st home now under construction features energy efficient infrastructure reducing the homeowner’s total monthly payments — including all utilities, taxes, insurance, and the zero-interest mortgage — to under $450 a month.

The story begins in 1992 when Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller spoke at the University. Fuller encouraged Sewanee to become a Habitat for Humanity tri-county affiliate encompassing Franklin, Grundy, and Marion counties. “We didn’t want to do that big of an operation,” Myers said. “The needs were so great just down Alabama Avenue.” Myers, Doug Cameron, and Tom Kepple wrote the 501(c)(3) nonprofit charter, and Habitat for Humanity generously shared blueprints and documents. In 1993 University Food Service employee Sammy D. Wilkerson moved into the first Housing Sewanee home built on his Alabama Avenue lot where a falling-down home once stood.

Until four years ago, HSI built homes on lots Sewanee area clients owned or leased. That changed when HSI acquired a tract of land with nine building sites on Sherwood Road. Coincidentally, realizing clients struggled with paying utility bills, the HSI board began exploring how to build more energy efficient homes. To save money, HSI began building smaller homes, averaging 1,000 square feet, and reusing building materials such as flooring and cabinets from remodels and mis-sized flooring left from the Sewanee Inn build. The savings went into switching from fiberglass insulation to spray foam or spray cellulose insulation which requires a specialty contractor to apply so costs more, but has a far superior R factor, meaning lower heating and cooling bills. The first home built at Sherwood Springs uses geothermal heating and cooling, relying on the earth’s 56° temperature to maintain the above ground habitat, meaning additional utility bill savings. Both homes built so far also save on water bills by using mountain spring water for toilets and outdoor spigots. At the Sherwood Springs homes, utility costs average less than $100 per month, Myers said, and clients’ 30-year no interest monthly mortgage payment on the $100,000 home is just $250.

HSI applicants must be employed but must not exceed an income threshold which varies depending on family size and circumstances. During construction, to-be homeowners must put in at least 300 hours of sweat equity and, following the build, must contribute 200 hours of volunteer time over the next three years. Visit <www.housingsewaneeinc.com> to download an application. Applications are also available at the CAC office or by writing HSI, P.O. Box 3152, Sewanee, TN 37375.

HSI finances home builds with donations, grants from the Sewanee Community Chest and South Cumberland Community Fund, football game refreshment-stand proceeds, free volunteer labor, and revenue from clients’ mortgage payments. “Somehow it all works,” Myers said. University Bonner Scholars are frequent volunteers, as are Mountain T.O.P. affiliates, a nonprofit which remodels homes for the financially challenged.

In addition to the two new homes and the third home under construction at the Sherwood Springs site, a demonstration building showcases displays and models of the geothermal and spring-water harvest systems used in the homes. To arrange a group tour for a class or club email Myers at <dmyers@sewanee.edu>.

Enrolled in the Blue Monarch program for women grappling with substance abuse, Harmon learned about HSI from a former client who served on the board. Laid off from her Sewanee Inn job due to COVID, Harmon started a cleaning business to make ends meet. The same week her lease at her temporary residence ended, Harmon’s house was finished. “It’s nothing I could have even dreamed would happen to me and my two sons,” Harmon said in awe of how things have worked out for her. “I’m so grateful to Blue Monarch and Housing Sewanee.”

Harmon credits Housing Sewanee with making her monthly bills manageable, enabling her to buy a car and save for her sons’ college education. “Marie’s business is doing so well she can’t take on any more clients. She probably wouldn’t qualify for a Housing Sewanee home now,” Myers said. “But that’s the purpose of what we’re doing. We want to break the cycle of poverty.”

Sleep in Heavenly Peace

by Beth Riner, Messenger Staff Writer

A local volunteer effort to build beds for children ages three to 17 in Monteagle, Sewanee, and surrounding Grundy and Franklin Counties has grown leaps and bounds since its beginnings nearly a year and a half ago in April of 2022.

This year, 2023, Monteagle’s satellite team of Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a charity chapter based out of South Pittsburg, Tenn., has provided beds for more than 80 children in Grundy County alone.

Upcoming events include the 2023 Bunks Across America Bed build from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9, at Lowe’s in Kimball.

“We welcome anyone who wants to come into the program and get involved,” said Sewanee resident Bob Askew, who spearheads local efforts.

“Sleep in Heavenly Peace is a national organization,” Askew explained. “The primary purpose is to provide beds for children who are in undesirable sleeping situations — that can mean on the floor, sleeping with a sibling or their parents. We’ve even seen children on trampolines or broken mattresses.”

Founded in 2012 by an Idaho father as a simple Christmas service project, Sleep in Heavenly Peace gained national exposure when celebrity Mike Rowe, known for the TV show Dirty Jobs, featured it on his show Returning the Favor, which spotlights people who are giving back to their communities.

“This organization in 2018 went from nine chapters once it was on television to over 331 chapters today,” Askew said. “That’s how it found its way to South Pittsburg and now into Grundy County.”

Norm Flake, the South Pittsburg chapter president of Sleep in Heavenly Peace, spoke to the Monteagle-Sewanee Rotary Club at a breakfast meeting in February of 2022.

“When he mentioned that kids were sleeping on the floor, it hit me so hard,” Askew said. “It impacted me, and it impacted the whole club because that day we decided we were going to get involved in supporting his project.”

Since nearly 30 percent of the bed requests that Flake received in South Pittsburg were coming from Monteagle and surrounding Grundy County, he convinced Askew and others to establish a satellite team.

Things came together quickly. Corporate sponsor Lowe’s gave $4,000 to help get things started — it’s something Lowe’s does to help every new team get off the ground.

A local businessman provided a large area underneath his store for the group to establish a cut shop. Here, the group could process donations from Appalachian Hardwoods, a sawmill in Huntland, Tenn.

“Everything that we make from their donations is free,” said cut shop volunteer Bill McCollum. “Since April of 2022, we are at $13,500 savings in lumber costs.”

Equally happy to get on board was the American Legion in Sewanee, which provided basement space for the group to stage its bed deliveries.

“We delivered 18 beds in July of 2023,” Askew said. “We’re averaging 15 to 20 monthly now in Grundy.”

Askew said the sturdy wooden beds, which come as twin singles or bunks, are similar to dorm beds.

“They’re super heavy and simple to assemble,” he said. Sleep in Heavenly Peace provides a mattress and bedding bundle of coordinated sheets, pillowcase, comforter, and sham, with much-loved Disney characters being popular with younger children.

Local churches like Morton Memorial United Methodist Church have contributed by holding bedding drives, and it’s not unusual for a chapter member to make a run to a department store to pick up specialty bedding such as “Frozen” that was requested by a child.

About 40 volunteers from the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly (MSSA) built 30 beds in a three to four-hour build in early July.

“We delivered 17 beds in Grundy County after that,” Askew said. “We exhausted half of that build in one month.”

Askew noted that some of the folks participating in the MSSA build were so moved by the experience that they quietly slipped donation checks to the program afterwards.

While the bed build at the MSSA was a large one, Askew said smaller builds can be ideal for groups such as sororities or fraternities who need service hours or businesses who wish to do team-building experiences and contribute to a worthwhile charity at the same time.

The organization has also partnered with Tim Tucker’s carpentry class at Grundy County High School, Askew said.

“I think that’s really an exciting element of this thing,” Askew said. “The idea of kids helping kids is pretty cool to me.” Tucker’s students have planed lumber for bed builds, and Askew hopes to get them more involved starting this September.

For Askew, the most meaningful part is bed delivery days.

“When I heard that kids were sleeping on the floor, my jaw hit the floor,” Askew said. “It was jarring. It totally changed my direction in what I felt like I needed to be doing for Rotary. We are called to help others who are struggling.”

To donate or volunteer, email Askew at <bob.askew@shpbeds.org> or call him at (931) 636-1873. To apply for a free bed, go to <www.shpbeds.org>.

Save the Date for the First Tickbush Festival

The St. James Midway Community Park is hosting the first Tickbush Festival from 2–7 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 23. There will be bluegrass and gospel music, food trucks, and arts and crafts. Bring a blanket or a chair and enjoy the family fun. For more information call Karen Vaughan at (931) 636-1468 or Amanda Knight at (931) 691-0962. St. James is located at 898 Midway Rd., Sewanee.

Bowling Listening Meetings Canceled for August

Due to the unexpected length of the extraordinary legislative session called by the governor, unfortunately Senator Bowling has to cancel the August listening meetings scheduled for next week. She will still hold listening meetings in September and October.

Parking on University Avenue

Scott Wilson, Acting Provost, and Chip Schane, Vice President for Public Safety, have announced the following to the Sewanee community concerning parking on University Avenue.

We are writing to update you about renewed efforts to protect bicyclists and pedestrians through the enforcement of parking restrictions along University Avenue. As many of you will recall, one of the temporary changes that occurred during the pandemic was the relaxation of parking restrictions in locations throughout campus, including along University Avenue. It’s been three years now, and it’s time to return to reasonable and appropriate parking regulations. Bike lanes along University Avenue from Green's View Road to Mitchell Avenue offer a safe way for bikers in our community, especially schoolchildren, to travel along this busy thoroughfare. Now that the academic year is starting up at Sewanee Elementary and at the University, effective Sept. 4, Tennessee state code prohibiting vehicular use of bike lanes will be enforced.

As part of this process, the curbs on University Avenue will be painted yellow, indicating that parking is prohibited. To accommodate the high level of demand for parking and reduce the need for parking on University Avenue, the University has made additional visitor and employee parking available behind Fulford Hall. There will also be a passenger drop-off zone (not parking) in front of All Saints’ Chapel for use by the mobility-impaired. Beyond the central core of campus, the University has also increased the number of parking spaces in the gravel lot on Alabama Avenue and added a lot beside the football field on Texas Avenue for student vehicles and special events.

Please know that this policy will not be relaxed for special events. Event managers should plan to inform their constituents of this policy, share information on parking availability on campus, and make the necessary arrangements (such as shuttles) to transport guests if necessary.

Over the course of the next several weeks, the University will continue to seek ways to make our community safer for pedestrians and convenient for commuters by increasing parking options. To encourage non-vehicular travel and promote a healthy lifestyle, the Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability is piloting a bike lending program. The program will provide a limited number of bikes to students who need them. This program will be expanding during the academic year. Interested students can contact OESS to learn more.

Thank you for your cooperation and commitment to a safe, healthy, and more sustainable community. We believe our community thrives when people of all ages and abilities can safely walk and bike on the Domain.

Thurmond Memorial Library Annual Book Sale

Thurmond Memorial Library seeks book donations and volunteers for its annual Labor Day Weekend Book Sale.

Drop off donations (except encyclopedias or magazines) from noon to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 31, at St. Mark & St. Paul at 216 University Ave., Sewanee. Volunteers are needed to accept donations and set up for the sale during this time.

Volunteers are also needed to staff the four-day sale from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 1, and Saturday, Sept. 2; from noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 3; and from 8 a.m. to noon on Monday, Sept. 4.

Additionally, volunteers are needed from noon to 2 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 4, to pack unsold books.

Book donations that the library cannot use are sold at the annual sale to purchase new books or taken to McKay’s Bookstore in Chattanooga for either cash or credit to buy more books.

The library contains newer fiction and classic books as well as books for children and young adults. It’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to everyone in the community. All of the books are donations, and there are no late fees.

For more information on donating or volunteering, contact Director Trudy Cunningham at (931) 636-4637.

Friends of South Cumberland Hire First Executive Director

Friends of South Cumberland State Parks, Inc., has hired Ned Murray as its first-ever Executive Director. “FSC is now 30 years old. As one of Tennessee’s largest Friends groups, we are now supporting multiple Tennessee State Parks in the South Cumberland Region,” noted FSC President Tom Sanders. “The challenges our parks are facing are significant, as the parks become ever more popular with visitors. Our mission, to support our park managers and their priorities, while also helping to conserve, protect and maintain these unique and environmentally significant places, requires us to strengthen our organization and increase our capacity to support these parks. Bringing Ned on board is, for us, an outstanding step forward.”

Murray, who has a life-long passion for the outdoors, has successfully led nonprofit organizations through growth, maturity, and transformation. Murray’s experience includes strategic planning, fundraising, friend-raising, communications, marketing, partnership development, governance and organizational leadership. “These are the skills necessary for Friends of South Cumberland State Parks to reach a new level of organizational maturity and resilience,” Murray explained. “My passion for this work is rooted in the beauty, wonder, and diversity of this amazing part of the world,” he added, “The South Cumberland region remains such a wonderful area thanks to many folks who have worked and fought so hard to protect, preserve, and maintain the most unique areas of this wonderfully diverse landscape.”

Murray will work with FSC committee chairs and its Board of Directors to continue implementation of its current five-year strategic plan, and to guide the process for plan updates. “We are excited to have Ned’s expertise, coupled with his knowledge of our parks and their environmental significance,” noted Sanders. “Ned will be instrumental in helping us build a stronger volunteer organization by engaging with the people and organizations who care about the parks and who want to help enhance FSC’s work with their time, talents and financial support.”

“When my wife Lucy and I began a conversation about where to make our new home base, it was a short conversation. We both knew that we would settle on our beloved Cumberland Plateau. No place feels more like home. No place offers more of what we value in life. It will be incredibly rewarding to help support the Friends of South Cumberland State Parks and its people to develop greater potential to positively impact the ecological, educational, environmental, and recreational life of the community and its visitors,” Murray added.

Murray recently retired from his position after 19 years as Head of School for the Episcopal Day School in Augusta, Ga. Prior to that he was Associate Headmaster at Baylor School in Chattanooga. In both communities he was also an active member or board member of several nonprofit organizations, including Boys and Girls Club of Chattanooga, Augusta and Chattanooga Rotary, SAIS, and the Augusta Chapter of American Red Cross. He was a founding organizer of both the Elementary Schools Research Collaborative and The Youth Board Augusta. Murray holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the Virginia Theological Seminary, a Master’s Degree from UT/Chattanooga, and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of the South.

Ned and Lucy reside in Sewanee. Lucy, an alumna of SAS and an environmental educator, is a Georgia Master Naturalist and has begun the Tennessee naturalist program offered through FSC. They have two sons, both of whom are graduates of the University of the South.

To learn more about Friends of South Cumberland State Parks or to become a member, visit


SUD Receives ARP Grant Reimbursement

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Aug. 15 meeting, Sewanee Utility District Manager Ben Beavers updated the board of commissioners on the $2 million American Rescue Plan (ARP) grant, and SUD’s recent receipt of almost $51,000 as reimbursement for purchase of a hydro-excavator. In other business, the board reviewed SUD’s cybersecurity plan and approved the cybersecurity policy.

SUD paid $60,000 for the hydro-excavator. By the terms of the ARP grant administered by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, SUD pays 15 percent of grant funded projects with another 15 percent coming from Franklin County and the remainder coming from the ARP. SUD needed the hydro-excavator for other projects as well as those designated in the grant and purchased the machine before the funding was received. SUD identified four projects to undertake with the ARP funds: reducing Inflow and Infiltration of ground water into sewer lines; setting up a computerized asset management program (a grant requirement); detecting leaks in water service lines with zone meters and linking zone meter data to the computerized asset management system to identify what zone the leak is in; and inventorying service lines for lead components to comply with federal regulations by the 2024 deadline. The board approved the slate of engineering firms Beavers recommended as qualifying to bid on the zone meter portion of the project.

Beavers predicted for the year SUD would be over budget on both expenses (12 percent) and unbudgeted revenue (24 percent) mostly from tap fees. “We’re still recovering from the highway project [narrowing 41A],” he said, “but we have plenty of money to cover our obligations for the grants.” Further down the road, SUD will be required to replace the estimated 45,000-50,000 feet of cast iron lines with lead fitting, estimated cost $600,000.

“A customer on Tennessee Avenue complained about rust,” Commissioner Clay Yeatman said. Beavers confirmed that location was among those with aging cast iron pipes.

In the discussion about cybersecurity, Beavers distinguished between SUD’s cybersecurity plan and cybersecurity policy. “The plan is the technical part, how we protect what we have like our servers and our SCADA system,” Beavers said. He stressed the computer at the water plant was not connected to the internet. The only thing going over the internet was readings such as flow and tank levels, but interference with the data receipt would not cause system failure. “If someone took a hammer to the water plant computer, we could still run the water plant manually,” Beavers observed. The cybersecurity policy covers employee use of the internet and related cybersecurity issues. By the policy, employees are not allowed to use SUD computers for personal business. “We continue to have issues with employees getting online,” Beavers acknowledged. Commissioner Doug Cameron pointed out employees could use their cellphones for personal business during breaks.

The SUD board will meet next Sept. 26, rather than the third Tuesday. Likewise, the board will meet Oct. 10, rather than the third Tuesday.

Franklin County Schools: Zoning Complaint, Promotion, Drugs

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

Addressing the board at the Aug. 14 Franklin County School Board meeting, Clark Memorial Elementary Principal David Carson took issue with current bus-route zoning arguing it deprived Clark Memorial students of crucial social interactions. In regular business, Elementary Supervisor Kim Tucker reported on how the district successfully navigated the Tennessee third-grade retention law making it a road to fourth-grade promotion. The board approved implementing a fifth-grade drug-abuse prevention program, “Too Good,” taught by school resource officers.

Clark Memorial Principal Carson pointed to eight residential neighborhoods where changes in bus-route zoning resulted in students living there having transportation to Decherd Elementary, not Clark Memorial. “We need those kids back in our schools,” Carson said, stressing the importance of positive role models. “Students follow students … A large population of students from my school needs to see classmates from middle class families.” In the center of the cluster of eight residential neighborhoods was a trailer park, Carson pointed out, and it was zoned for Clark Memorial. Carson gave the example of the Holly Hills subdivision which was 1.8 miles from Clark Memorial and 3.6 miles from Decherd, with several major intersections in between, yet the bus route transported students to Decherd. “Neighborhoods in Winchester schools should be zoned for Clark Memorial,” Carson insisted. “[The bus zones] don’t make sense.”

Elementary Supervisor Tucker said just 183 of the 381 third-grade students tested at the end of the 2022-2023 school year scored “proficient” for promotion to fourth grade. However, only 10 students were retained. Tucker explained “the steps” to promotion. When students retook the test, 26 more scored “proficient.” Parents of 38 students successfully appealed the decision not to promote. Eighteen students successfully completed summer school and were promoted. Of the remaining students, 116 entered fourth grade and are receiving tutoring to supplement their learning. “The parents’ decided retention was the best course of action” for the 10 students retained, Tucker said. “The [promotion process] went as well as it could have, even though it was a high stress time.”

Providing an overview of the “Too Good” drug abuse prevention program, county Mayor Chris Guess said the 10-lesson program was similar to the DARE program. Guess pointed to “the decision-making process” lesson as key. “The decision [kids] make needs to become habit,” Guess stressed. A two-day training program certifies SROs to teach the class. Students receive a certificate and binder when they complete the program, “swag” made possible by the grant law enforcement received. Board member Sarah Marhevsky suggested guidance counselors teach the program. Guess argued SROs were better equipped to explain the consequences of drug abuse, that an SRO’s uniform conveyed “authority,” and that the program helped build a positive relationship with law enforcement. The Franklin County Sheriff’s Department taught the class in the past, Guess said, but with only two trained SROs. The SRO from each school will teach the class.

The board also approved two policy amendments set aside for further review in July. The amended Appearance Before the Board policy calls for a 30-minute public comment period at the beginning of each meeting, with speakers limited to three minutes each to address agenda items and other issues at the board’s discretion. Board member Lance Williams pointed out individuals who formally requested permission to address the board before the meeting would still be allotted five minutes to speak. The Attendance policy amendment allows teachers to grant additional time to complete makeup work following an absence.

Clarifying the policy amendment approved in July limiting students to accruing up to $10 for lunch charges, Director of Schools Cary Holman said, “Students are never denied lunch. It’s against the law.” Holman explained the rule limited what students could charge for extras such as “ice cream.” Parents will be notified weekly of charges students make. Six county schools offer free breakfast and free lunch.

‘Unrivaled: Sewanee 1899’ Airs on WCTE PBS; National Debut on Sept. 16

In 140 years of college football, nothing comes close to the University of the South’s 1899 season. “Unrivaled: Sewanee 1899” is the story of how 21 players, playing both offense and defense, traveled 2,500 miles by train to play five grueling games in six days – “and on the seventh day they rested” – goes the legend. In fact, they didn’t rest and instead defeated 12 opponents across seven states in just six weeks. The Emmy ® nominated (Southeast region 2023) documentary from Sewanee alumni Norman Jetmundsen and David Crews (both C’76) will encore on WCTE Central Tennessee PBS on Wednesday, Aug. 23, at 10 p.m., before making its national television debut on the public television WORLD channel Saturday, Sept. 16, at 6 p.m. CT (7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT, check local listings) during college football season. It is distributed by the National Educational Television Association (NETA). The documentary is also available to stream at <PBS.org>.

Founded in 1857, the University of the South’s future was in jeopardy after the Civil War and Reconstruction. The struggling college known as “Sewanee” fielded its first team in 1891 for a new sport called football. Just eight years later, a remarkable season invigorated the school and ensured its survival. In 1899, Sewanee not only defeated Georgia, Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Southwestern Presbyterian, Texas, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, LSU, Tulane, Cumberland, Auburn (coached by John Heisman), and North Carolina, but only one of those teams was even able to score on them. “Unrivaled: Sewanee 1899” uses a mix of interviews, re-enactments, historical documents and illustrations to bring to life the story of these underdogs who became the champions of the South under seemingly impossible circumstances unheard of in today’s game of football. As the film explores, the Sewanee team played as many games in a season in half the time of modern college football, under much different rules, with no practice time between, no helmets and protective gear, plaster on their cuts, and every disadvantage against them. The film also shines light on African-American trainer Cal Burrows and another whose name is lost to history, who travelled with the team and were the unsung heroes of this victorious season in the post-Civil War South.

“This is much more than a football story,” says Birmingham-based filmmaker Norman Jetmundsen. “It captures the culture of the late 1890s, when electricity was a novelty and trains were the main mode of transportation. It’s the story of a 20-year-old student, Luke Lea, who crafted the most ambitious schedule in college football history and goes on to become the youngest U.S. Senator of his day. Above all it’s a story of a group of young men who are drawn together in pursuit of a dream and who give everything they have to make it a reality.” And as a former Sewanee Vice-Chancellor notes in the film, the story of the Sewanee Tigers and their season have all the hallmarks of fiction, yet “It’s more than lore, it’s true!”

The film includes interviews with descendants of the 1899 team players and their manager Luke Lea, along with University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban, CBS Sports commentator Tony Barnhart, ESPN College GameDay host Kirk Herbstreit, College Football Hall of Fame historian Kent Stephens, former Florida State University head coach Bobby Bowden, former University of Georgia athletic director and head coach Vince Dooley, former University of Tennessee head coach Johnny Majors, historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham, C’91, University of the South history professor Woody Register, New York Jets scout and sport analyst Phil Savage, C’87, and more recent players, coaches, and Sewanee staff. The film’s score is composed by frequent Ken Burns collaborator Bobby Horton.

Prior to its public television premiere, “Unrivaled: Sewanee 1899” was featured in the Austin Lift-Off Festival, Oxfilm, Beaufort Film Festival, Cobb International Film Festival (Best Local Film), Central Tennessee Downtown Film Festival, Hollywood Gold Awards, Knoxville International Film Festival (First Place, Documentary Feature Film), Sidewalk Film Festival (Birmingham), the Tennessee International Indie Film Festival, and the Shockfest Film Festival.

The National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA) is a professional association representing 294 member stations in 48 states, the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. NETA provides leadership, general audience content, educational services, professional development, and trusted financial management services, including human resources and benefits administration, to individual public media licensees, their affinity groups, and public media as a whole. For more information, visit <netaonline.org> and follow them on Twitter @NETA_Tweets, Facebook @NETAstations, Instagram @NETA_grams, and LinkedIn @NETAbusiness.

For more information about the film, visit: https://sewanee1899.org/;.

Community Chest Applications Available

The Sewanee Community Chest (SCC) is pleased to announce the beginning of the 2023–24 grant cycle. All nonprofits that benefit the community are encouraged to apply.

The 2023–24 funding application can be downloaded from the website at https://sewaneecivic.org;. The application deadline is Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. Approved grant funds will be distributed starting in April 2024, contingent on funding availability.

This year, organizations can also apply online with this form https://forms.gle/LdHvuL8xTccw26yp6;. It does require you to have a Gmail email account.

The SCC is a nonprofit organization and relies on funding from the community to support charitable programs and initiatives. The SCC supports local organizations that have requested basic needs funding for quality of life, community aid, children’s programs, and those who are beyond Sewanee but still serve our entire community. With your support, the SCC will continue to provide aid where it matters most: elder care, food, books, housing, scholarships, spay/neuter programs for animals, recreational spaces and funding for the local elementary school. As the 2023–24 grant cycle begins, the SCC is also kicking off its yearly fundraising campaign.

The SCC urges everyone who benefits from life in this community, whether you live, work, or visit, to give generously. Donations are tax deductible. Contributions, payroll deductions and pledges are accepted at any time at P.O. Box 99, Sewanee, TN 37375. You can also make a gift through PayPal Giving. Go to <https://sewaneecivic.org for more information.

For more information, email <sewaneecommunitychest@gmail.com>. The Sewanee Community Chest is sponsored by the Sewanee Civic Association.

‘Woven Wind’ at the UAG

The University Art Gallery is delighted to present the collaborative project “Woven Wind,” on view in the UAG, and at select sites around campus, from Aug. 23 through Oct. 11, 2023.

Please join us at 5 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 20, in Guerry Auditorium for a panel discussion with the artists. Reception to follow.

“Woven Wind” brings together photography and video, sculptural installation, music, genealogical research, oral histories, and community clay workshops. It does so in order to activate archival materials, and in order to read past those materials and attend to other voices, specifically those of the enslaved and their descendants. “Woven Wind” invites us to remember together, and to work towards community and healing in the present.

The project began in 2018, when artist Vesna Pavlović joined Dr. Woody Register and his students in a critical archival investigation of the Lovell Quitman Family archive, housed in the William R. Laurie University Archives and Special Collections of the University of the South.

The Lovells were part of the Sewanee Community from 1873 to 1939. Their home, affectionately called Sunnyside, stood where Hunter Hall now stands. The family’s carefully preserved papers include photographs of their lives in Sewanee, but also documentation of their plantations in Mississippi, and of the hundreds of enslaved people held there immediately prior to the Civil War.

Sewanee and its community are intimately tied to other places, including the Lovell plantations in Mississippi and the people once enslaved there.

The “Woven Wind” collaborative team includes photographer Vesna Pavlović, social practice artists Courtney Adair Johnson and Marlos E’van, musician Rod McGaha, community advocate Mélisande Short-Colomb, and Mississippi civil rights veteran and family history researcher Jan Hillegas.

The exhibition will feature video interviews with the Toles family, descendants of the enslaved connected to the Lovell-Quitman archive, as they consider repair and their own efforts to understand and share their family history. Idiosyncratic clay “cypress knees,” built during community workshops, stand as emblems of memory and connectedness to place. Clay knees placed outside will dissolve over time, and the daffodil bulbs underneath bloom.

The artists would like to thank the Toles family, for welcoming them and for allowing them to listen, and all those who have participated in making clay cypress knees during the Community Clay Workshops at Buchanan Arts in Nashville and at Saint Andrew’s-Sewanee. Special thanks to Rachel Malde and Fhae Long for leading the workshop at Saint Andrew’s-Sewanee, and to Mandi Johnson, Director of the William R. Laurie University Archives and Special Collections, Sewanee, for her support for the project.

“Woven Wind” is supported by a Tennessee Arts Commission Arts Access Grant; Vanderbilt University Scaling Success Grant; Mellon Partners for Humanities Education Collaboration Grant; Vanderbilt University, Engine for Art, Democracy, and Justice; Tennessee State University; Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy Catalyst Grant; the Natchez Museum of African American Culture; and the Roberson Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation at the University of the South, Sewanee. In Sewanee, Art, Art History, and Visual Studies; the University Lectures Committee; the Roberson Project on Slavery, Race and Reconciliation; the Friends of the University Art Gallery; and the Smith Experiential Learning Grant have all provided further support for the Community Clay Workshop and for the presentation of the “Woven Wind” in the University Art Gallery.

‘FESTIVAL’ by Josiah Golson at the Carlos Gallery

The Carlos Gallery in the Visual Art Building at the University of the South is pleased to present “FESTIVAL,” an installation by artist Josiah Golson. The exhibit will be on display through Oct. 13. An artist talk and reception will be at 5 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 13.

Josiah Golson explores personal and collective narratives of identity and advocacy through drawing, painting, poetry, performance, and video. He is the creator of 800 Collective, an organization that creatively inspires and organizes civic discourse and engagement.

“FESTIVAL” is a work of poetry, installation, and performance through which Golson explores identity and belonging in his relationship with popular music and its imagery. Through visual and textual narrative contextualized in the space of a teenage music lover’s bedroom, Golson shares his experience of negotiating the complexity of influence and seeking authenticity amid the power structures of popular culture.

In “FESTIVAL,” Golson reimagines his teenage bedroom as a space of world-building with the iconography of popular music. Through the assemblage and collage of photos sourced from magazines, posters, and pop music media, he designs “stages” or scenes inspired by the “genre” or styles of music associated with the subjects. Over time, Golson revisits, reconstructs, and removes images to transform the layered and evolving scene, as the bedroom endures as a space for conjuring and constructing identity and community. As he releases the mass-produced images of his “heroes,” these icons populate the floor and are replaced with photos, markings, and materials that reflect his authentic experiences and world, the music no less present.

The installation is documented in an Artist’s Book that contains poems for each of the 12 “stages” of the bedroom.

Josiah Golson is the founder of 800 Collective, and the Programs Director at Stove Works in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Golson received his B.A. in Communication from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in Austin. Developing his artistic practice while studying law, Golson expanded his projects from individual works to collaborative workshops and projects inspired by civic themes. Golson has taught and facilitated workshops at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Curb Center at Vanderbilt University, and Project Row Houses in the Third Ward of Houston, Texas.

Carlos Gallery in the Visual Art Building is located at 105 Kennerly Rd. Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday–Friday, and 1–5 p.m., Saturday.

Ron Van Dyke Creates Wooden Statue

by Beth Riner, Messenger Staff Writer

It took artist Ron Van Dyke 37 hours and a trip to the emergency room to transform a dead maple tree into a nine-foot wooden statue of a World War II soldier.

This past June, Altamont Mayor Jana Barrett asked Van Dyke to look at the tree on the Old Grundy County Courthouse Square to see what he could do with it. A lightning strike had killed the tree.

“They just hated to cut it down without doing something,” Van Dyke recalled. “The mayor called me because she knew I was doing sculpture — and I used to do wood carving, but nothing that big.”

Since the tree was next to a World War II cannon, the mayor thought a soldier from that era made sense and charged Van Dyke with completing it in time for a Fourth of July dedication.

“I’m glad they trusted my artistic creativity because they didn’t say I had to do it in a certain way,” Van Dyke said. “They left it up to me on how to design it.”

Although he researched the Internet to see what a World War II soldier looked like, the shape of the tree itself drove Van Dyke’s design. Its lowest limb looked like a saluting arm.

“It was amazing,” he said. “The tree limb was just growing that way. I cut off that limb to make two arms — one arm’s straight, and one arm’s saluting.”

With his design in mind, Van Dyke came out with a chainsaw and started carving the trunk of the tree.

“You just rough it out with the big chainsaw, and then you go in with smaller saws and start doing details,” he explained. He used a small side grinder with a wood-cutting blade for more detail and then finally wood-carving chisels for the finest detailing.

He worked on it over the course of a few days in rainy June.

“Whenever the weather was good, I’d come out here and work on it a little bit,” he noted. Passersby, including veterans, would stop to watch as he worked.

“It turned out pretty good,” he added. “It’s tricky to get everything proportionate.”

Calamity struck on the last grind of the project — the grinder slipped, came back, grabbed his shirt, and ripped into his forearm.

“It cut me wide open,” he said. “It didn’t hurt — it was so fast like someone slicing you with a knife.”

He called a buddy who lived right down the road to drive him the 30 miles to the emergency room in McMinnville where he got 13 stitches.

“That’s not bad for 50 years of carving,” he said. “That’s the only really bad accident I’ve had. I could have bled to death if it had cut an artery.”

He went back to work on the statue the very next day.

“When I got through, I sealed it with wood sealer, and then I put paint on it,” he said. “That will preserve it for a long time.”

Van Dyke, 69, grew up in Chattanooga’s East Ridge and moved in 1976 to Altamont, where he bought five acres and a house for $8,000. Van Dyke’s family used to drive through the area on the way to visit his grandmother, and he fell in love with the rugged beauty of the bluffs.

“People can’t believe I did that,” Van Dyke said. “Nobody wanted to live here — it was such a Wild West. It was crazy — moonshiners, car strippers, marijuana growers, and crankheads. When I first came here, the Klan was in sheets in the highway taking up donations in buckets.”

He found work teaching survival skills at Skymont Scout Reservation, the 2,000-acre Boy Scout camp, where he discovered an unknown cave, which still bears his name.

When the ranger at the camp told him they were looking for somebody to work the fire tower in Altamont, Van Dyke jumped at the chance.

“I was young back then and could make it to the top,” he laughed. The tower, known as the Last Lookout, was one of several used to triangulate the location of wildfires and was the last to shut down as aircraft replaced the workers manning them.

He’d work the two jobs about three-quarters of the year and then spend the rest of his time working on his cabin and focusing on his art.

A mostly self-taught artist, Van Dyke started out in wood carving and woodworking and got into making sculpture out of recycled metal.

“There was a lot of junk up here and a lot of metal in the mountains,” he explained. “I started going to the scrapyard in McMinnville every two weeks to buy scrap. Back then you could buy all you wanted for 25 cents a pound. I had buckets of stuff that I would make things out of — animals and flowers and whatever.”

Van Dyke quickly became known on the craft show circuit for his metal sculpture.

“I did that for about 25 years, and then they decided it was dangerous to let people walk around scrapyards, and they wouldn’t let me look no more.”

He was working on stone patios at the time and started carving faces out of the stones.

“People would buy those as fast as I could make them,” he said. “An artist has to be really flexible and pay attention to what his client wants. I’d make stuff out of anything I found.

“I’m just into everything — building stuff, building houses. One guy even called me to see if I could build him a coffin. He didn’t have enough money to buy anything, but he said he needed it in three days. He had cancer, and they told him he was dying. He got buried in it about a week later.”

Often called a Renaissance man, Van Dyke began writing during Covid. He hopes to market a historical fiction book on hobos to the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in Chattanooga and self-publish a collection of supernatural short stories.

After selling his cabin, he bought property past Greeter Falls, where he ran Fern Falls, a bed-and-breakfast, for about five years until the recession hit.

“I have a 30-foot waterfall in my backyard,” he said, adding that he is thinking about renting rooms again (without the breakfast) in the near future.

Van Dyke will have his work for sale from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 7, at the Fall Sewanee Arts and Crafts Fair during the University of the South’s Family Weekend.

Monteagle Planning: Repaving Responsibility; Street Closure

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Aug. 1 meeting, the Monteagle Planning Commission approved the site plan for a West Main Street strip mall with the condition the Monteagle Council rule on who paid for parking lot repaving costs in the event of sewer main repair. The decision could impact future development along that section of highway where an easement for the sewer main runs alongside the road. The commission gave a preliminary nod of approval to closing West College Street in conjunction with commercial development of three prime business properties.

The commission debated approving the strip mall site plan at great length. Ronak Patel, the owner of the West Main property, agreed to work with the council to reach a mutual agreement about who was responsible for repaving cost in the event of sewer repair. The sewer main easement also crosses the Dollar General property. The council’s decision “will impact all future [business] sites all the way down the street,” said Commissioner Greg Rollins. “The planning commission does not have the power to say who’s responsible for costs,” said town planner Chad Reese.

Realtor Tommy Stanfill approached the commission about redrawing the plats for three properties and closing West College Street to allow all three properties to have road frontage for business development. Stanfill said Monteagle was a highly sought after location for commercial development. “This is some of the most valuable property in Monteagle,” Stanfill stressed. Reese explained street closing originated with a request to the planning commission for evaluation to determine impact on public utility easements and to ensure no property owners lost road access; the final decision rested with the council. Following the closure, half the road went to each adjoining property owner. “West College is a dead-end street,” noted commission Chair Ed Provost. “It’s a win-win for Monteagle,” said Dean Lay who owns one of the properties, pointing out Monteagle would gain three valuable business properties and no longer be responsible for maintenance to West College. At present, Francis Gilbreath owns the only property with frontage on West Main, but the lot is too narrow for a business. Redrawing the plats and closing West College would give Gilbreath a lot large enough for a business and give Lay and the Harton Family Partners frontage on West Main. No other property owners border West College. Reese will check on possible easement issues.

The commission took up two zoning related proposals. The commission decided not to allow campgrounds as a special exception on review on C-3 commercial property. “Since were getting ready to do a master plan, I’m not willing to look at rezoning at this point,” said Commissioner Katie Trahan. “I’d rather have community input.”

The council voted to recommend truck stops be permitted on C-3 property only subject to review, not as an automatically approved use which is the case now. Reese cited traffic congestion at I-24 Exit 135, the location of one truck stop and a proposed site of another, as a reason to consider the change. Final approval must come from the council.

At the request of Monteagle residents, Mayor Greg Maloof introduced a discussion about minimum square footage of single-family homes. At present for R-1 residential, the minimum is 800 square feet and 600 square feet for R-2 and R-3. Commissioners Richard Black and Rollins maintained the 600 square foot minimum was too low. Alderman Nate Wilson said the commission should consider the impact on affordable housing before increasing the minimum. “It will raise the bar for local people to afford housing,” Wilson said. Increasing the size from 600 to 800 square feet would increase the cost by $40,000. “What problem are you trying to fix?” Wilson asked. Provost said concerns about tiny homes prompted the discussion. Wilson pointed out Monteagle had size rules for tiny homes, only allowed them in R-4, but had no R-4. The commission will continue the discussion next month.

The planning commission meets next at 5 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 5. Changing the meeting day and time are being considered.

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