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Bell Buckle Arts Council: Art for everyone

Posted on Wednesday, April 10, 2024 at 8:05 am


Julie Barrett, a textile collage artist, and the president of the Bell Buckle Arts Council (BBAC) (Photo by Mark McGee)

When you mention Bell Buckle, one of the first things in someone’s mind would be art.

Oh, there is the RC and MoonPie Festival, but even that event offers an opportunity to showcase art. The juried Webb Art and Craft Show, held in conjunction with the Bell Buckle Arts and Crafts Festival is an October to-do list for visitors each year.

But art is about more than special events. Julie Barrett, a textile collage artist, has been president of the Bell Buckle Arts Council (BBAC) since 2020. She wants to promote art all year long.

“I’ve lived around here my whole life except for the five years I lived in East Nashville,” Barrett said. “When I decided to move back to Bedford County six years ago, I moved to Bell Buckle, where I lived for five years. Now my family and I live in Wartrace.

“The arts council was kind of dormant when I moved back. I could not find it, so I kept bugging people, and eventually it sprang back to life a little bit.”

When Barrett and others started reviving the BBCA the meetings attracted around 13 people. That number has grown to more than 20.

“We decided to make a real go of it again,” Barrett said. “It is growing and growing.”

As part of that plan for the second year in a row, the BBAC has scheduled monthly workshops which are low-cost and taught by arts council members.

The schedule from April through December is:

*April 13:  Martin Rabbitt Atwell – Flower Painting in Acrylics

*May 11: Michelle Sweatt – Ornamental Sugar Skull Assemblage

*June 8: Julie Barrett-Taylor Swift Textile Collage

*July – No workshops

*Aug. 10: Nancy Turner – Bookbinding

*Sept. 14: Lynn Driver – Mosaics

*Oct.: Art Alley (no workshops)

*Nov.: Eva Berg – Felt Bags

*Dec.: Quilt Walk/Art Show/Holiday Bazaar

“We share resources, opportunities and knowledge,” Barrett said. “Several of our members have been through the Rural Artist Development Program (RAD) and share their knowledge base with all of us.”

The RAD program is sponsored by the Nashville Arts and Business Council and the Tennessee Arts Commission. Participants receive eight weeks of art business training and are paired with an art business mentor for six months.

“We want to make art accessible to everyone,” Barrett said. “I think people have a funny opinion of art – that it is snooty and stuffy.

“We want to give workshops where anyone can learn about and work with various mediums. It may be something they have never tried before. We usually have a really good attendance.”

The BBAC meets every first Tuesday at the Bell Buckle Mosaic House at 181 Bynum Road.  The workshops are offered the second Saturday of the month and are also held at the Bell Buckle Mosaic House.

According to a release, The Mosaic House, owned by Lynn Driver, houses three working art studios. Driver works in mosaics, Martin Rabbitt Atwell (Bad Rabbitt Art Studio) is a painter and art teacher and Nancy Turner has a studio for bookbinding and fiber art.

There is also a lending/sharing area for members to donate their extra art supplies or to try out new mediums.

Art Alley is held during the Webb Arts and Crafts Fair on the third weekend in October.

“We have a curated assortment of local and regional artists’ booths on High Street,” Barrett said. “We use this space to give artists an affordable way to participate in a truly monumental show.

“Every year we choose a judge related to the arts to award monetary prizes in several categories. These prizes are generously donated by local businesses and we greatly appreciate their support of the Arts.”

Barrett added there is also a place in the Art Alley for emerging artists.

“They can be children or adults who want to get a feel for setting up and working a craft show booth with the encouragement, support, and advice from working artists,” Barrett said.

Membership is not required to attend the meeting or the workshops. Anyone is welcome. If you want to become a member you do not have to be a Bell Buckle resident. Members include people from Shelbyville, Wartrace, Murfreesboro, Estill Springs, and other surrounding areas.

For additional information go to @bellbucklearts on Facebook or Instagram, or email