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Volume 26, Number 4 — April 2019

AAME is a service-oriented art council

From left to right: Nancy DeFriece, Nancy Arnold and Lisa Alderman at A! Magazine's 20th anniversary gala celebration.
From left to right: Nancy DeFriece, Nancy Arnold and Lisa Alderman at A! Magazine's 20th anniversary gala celebration.
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By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | December 31, 2014

NOTE: Arts Alliance Mountain Empire is the parent organization for A! Magazine for the Arts, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in November 2014.

In 2001, Nancy DeFriece was appointed to serve on the Tennessee Arts Commission. While serving, she wished the Tri-Cities could have a unified arts council, but this was an impractical dream. So she set out to form an arts council in Bristol. From the beginning, she envisioned that the A! Magazine committee would be the foundation for this effort, even though at that time the committee was serving in an advisory capacity with the Bristol Herald Courier, then the publisher of A! Magazine for the Arts.

DeFriece and Rich Boyd, executive director of TAC, asked Ann Holler to organize meetings with people involved in the arts, and the TAC send a consultant, Bill Mitchell, to meet with them. Mitchell also met with leaders of large arts organization, such as The Paramount Center for the Arts, Barter Theatre and William King Museum of Art.

The consensus of these meetings was that Bristol needed an arts council; however participants did not want a fundraising and granting arts council to compete with their own fundraising. They also did not want a presenting arts council to compete with what they were already doing. Mitchell recommended a service-providing arts council.

In 2002, the planning committee began to define the role of a service arts council. Networking and collaboration were deemed to be two important aspects.

"It is important to note that TAC provided the impetus for the founding of AAME and for the type of arts council it was to become," Ann Holler, founding president, says. "In other words, AAME is what it is because of the backing of the Tennessee Arts Commission. AAME is what TAC wanted it to be — a service-type arts council."

AAME's first project came from the city of Bristol, Tennessee, which asked the first board to coordinate a public sculpture project. This project eventually transformed into the Art in Public Places organization. It spun off as a separate organization in 2009. AAME remained its fiduciary agent, until AiPP's non-profit status was approved.

In 2003 the publisher of the BHC offered to turn over A! Magazine to a non-profit organization, with the BHC continuing to print and circulate the magazine as a community service. Fortunately, AAME had, by that time, received its charter from the state of Tennessee and was ready to move forward with programming. At the first full board meeting, the board voted to adopt A! Magazine as a publication, because the magazine perfectly fulfilled the mission of AAME and was consistent with the service function of AAME.

In February 2004, AAME published its first issue of A! Magazine for the Arts. In November 2004, the magazine celebrated its 10th anniversary of publication, most of these years as apublication of the Bristol Herald Courier. It commissioned Charles Vess to create artwork to celebrate. November 2014 marked its 20th anniversary. AAME and the Bristol Herald Courier have a long and fulfilling history of working together to print and distribute the magazine. In 2007, they collaborated to create a monthly Youth Spotlight feature. To this day, through its generosity, the Bristol Herald Courier makes it possible for AAME to continue publishing A! Magazine for the Arts.

Since 2004, AAME has continued to publish A! Magazine to inform people of arts happenings, to advocate for the arts and to improve recognition of the aesthetic, educational and economic value of the arts.

Additionally, it has hosted legislative arts receptions, networking opportunities, workshops training artists in media relations, grant writing and financial planning; and hosted a youth art show, among other activities. AAME also sponsors an Art Swap during the State of the Arts weekend in downtown Bristol.

In 2014, it began a speaker's series in partnership with the Bristol Public Library. The first speaker was Martin Dotterweich. Other speakers included Rick Rose from Barter Theatre, Abingdon, Va., and Peyton Boyd, architect of the new Birthplace of Country Music Museum, Bristol, Va.

In 2015, the organization will launch its Arts Achievement Awards (see story page 6) designed to honor individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the arts in the Tri-Cities area. The nominees will receive their awards at a ceremony in May. The May issue of A! Magazine for the Arts will focus on the winners. A nomination form is included in this issue; the return deadline is March 1.

AAME is supported by advertising sales from the magazine, annual memberships, patron solicitations and for the first time in 2014 a gala fundraiser. Membership is comprised of individual artists, community members, non-profit arts and presenting organizations, and businesses that generously donate funds to AAME.

"One thing we have in common with other arts organizations is our desire to enrich the life of the community through the power of art," Steve Fey, vice-president of AAME and co-chair of the A! Magazine committee, says. "We don't present events that compete with our member organizations; instead we support the work of the organizations, primarily through A! Magazine. One of our greatest rewards includes statewide recognition of the magazine's work."

The magazine received the Tennessee Governor's Award for Arts Leadership, a Pinnacle Award and awards from the Tri-Cities Chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists. AAME also received an Award for Arts Leadership from the Arts Council of Greater Kingsport.

AAME's governing board and committees are dedicated volunteers. AAME employs a staff writer/designer for the magazine, bookkeeper and Webmaster.

For more information about AAME, visit For more about the magazine, visit

>> Johnson City Area Arts Council serves five counties & one city

The 10th anniversary issue of A! Magazine for the Arts featured commissioned artwork by Charles Vess, Abingdon, Va.