THOM 9 | Fall / Winter 2017


Volume 5 | Issue 2

Fall/Winter 2017


Thomasville Center for the Arts


Michele Arwood


Haile McCollum

Managing Editor

Margret Brinson


Jenny Dell

Account Executive

Anna Day



Jennifer Westfield


Lindsey Strippoli


Abby Mims Faircloth

Minette Hand

Gabriel G. Hanway

Leslie McKellar

Cary Norton

Alicia Osborne

David Payr

AJ Reynolds

Michael SeRine

Daniel Shippey

Ronnie Stripling

Marné Vermaak

Alex Workman



Alison Abbey

June Bailey White

Ben Brown

Jennifer Buller

Stephanie Burt

Katie Mitchell

Rob Rushin

Jennifer Westfield

600 E. Washington St.,Thomasville, GA




Fall/Winter 2017



A.W. Moller


11 Lowcountry LuxE

The Dewberry Hotel



17 Cooking Up New Classics

Robby Melvin


23 The Art of Place

Michelle Decker & Tom Hill

Featured Artists

2017 Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival



85 Experiment in Restoration

Birdsong Nature Center


91 Always Be Connecting

Domi Station


97 Magic Across the Curriculum

Sims Academy of Innovation and Technology


103 Going Small to Live Large

Bruce Tolar


109 Featured Artists

Cover photo by Gabriel G. Hanway

Letter From

the Editor


It’s been just over a year since our family settled

into a new place to call home. Although we vowed to

never live in an old home again, this one was hard to


to last

The property was like many old homes in the

South when we found it. Aged and weathered, it

was struggling to survive the wear imparted by the

people who had lived there for more than 160 years.

It stood tall and proud, but tired, like it had been

trying to say something and no one was listening.

During the renovation, many asked why we bought

it. Admittedly, it was a touch crazy given the home’s

desperate condition, so, that was a fair question to

expect. We said many things, mainly that it needed

to be saved and that it just felt right.

Now, after a year of living within its walls, I have

come to understand that it was much more than

that. This home felt like an ideal place to build a life

upon because it had been built to last – much like


their life’s work. Though many of them hail from

outside of Thomasville, they all contribute to our

sense of place, whether through the art they have

created here or the ideas they share with us for a

boutique hotel, an urban neighborhood, a creative

business incubator, an innovative learning center

for our youth, and a culinary arts program.

While our work at the Center for the Arts is artscentric,

we are driven by a desire to contribute

in meaningful ways to the place where we do

our work by creating experiences where lasting

connections and memories are made. If you haven’t

paid us a visit lately, you should. One step inside

our historic building and our new studios and you’ll

see we’ve been designing a new experience that’s

meant to last.

Our beautiful city of just under 20,000 has a deep

sense of place and has obviously been built to

endure. You see it on a slow drive past the old homes

on our oak lined streets and can feel it on a stroll

along the sidewalks edging our historic buildings.

Progress has been tempered by a nod to our history,

land and legends, so that what has emerged is a

place intended to last for many, many lifetimes. To

me, that’s what makes it feel right.

In this issue, you’ll meet artists from all walks who

have made their appreciation for place a part of

Michele Arwood

Executive Director

Thomasville Center for the Arts






Outside of today’s 140-character, Snapchat-filtered, digital universe

there is an alternate, more authentic movement afoot. It’s why the

South is hot, vinyl is reborn, historic buildings are restored and print is

not, in fact, dead.



The Character Of The South





Good Grit

Display Until 10/31/2017



Founded 2015 | 6 issues/year

Founded by Laura Bento in Birmingham, Alabama, Good Grit is based

on a progressive platform that squarely addresses misconceptions

about the South. Its loud-and-clear voice for Southern culture, makers,

creators and pioneers makes this publication built to last.


Founded 2017 | 6 issues/year

From the Mississippi Delta comes a look under the Southern surface.

The South’s “please and thank you” culture is illuminated in Okra by a

cast of people and places who are not perfect but full of life and, most

importantly, real.

Paprika Southern

Founded 2013, 2015 Print | Quarterly

This ethereal publication is part art, part place and part style. Models

that look like your neighbors adorn style spreads in settings both

aspirational and inspirational. Co-founder Siobhan Egan’s work has

appeared in THOM.




Arts &



For Floridians. By Floridians.


Founded 2016 | Quarterly

Unifying Florida’s cultural and natural resources in one statewide

publication requires unlimited creativity. Stunning photography ties the

pages together and tells the story of place in a smart package that is

worth your time.












D irector









His Life P Final Album






Written by

Jennifer Westfield

Photographed by

Gabriel G. Hanway

Within larger historical narratives, stories are rarely islands in the stream. The

more we dig, the more each becomes a hub of radial lines, connecting present

to past and facilitating journeys back in time – the ones that lead us to empty

houses, the names of strangers and single photographs attesting to the whole

of bygone eras.

This story began five years ago, when our creative director, Haile McCollum,

took her family to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. “We were

wandering in a photography exhibit,” Haile says. “We paused in front of two

small black and white photos. They were labeled as being from Thomasville.

Wait. What?”

The photographs, shot in the 1880s, led back to an address in downtown

Thomasville and a family plot at Laurel Hill Cemetery – marking the former

photography studio and final resting place of an English immigrant named

A.W. Moller. Despite the scattering of his photos in major museums from sea

to shining sea, the internet turns up next to nothing about Moller’s life – if

you’re looking.

Who was this guy?

By all available accounts, Algernon Walner “Algie” Moller was no deliberate

steward of American history. It’s hard to believe that anyone could have



“Although Thomasville had dozens of

photographers working contemporaneously with

the Mollers,” Ephraim says, “the Moller Studio in one

form or another was in continuous operation from

1886 to 1956. The time period [during which] A.W.

lived and worked in Thomasville really covers two,

and almost three economic periods.”

The Moller family relocated from England to

Thomasville in 1885, on the recommendation of a

cousin in New York. A.W. was one of six children

brought to America after his father’s ship brokering

business went bust, reportedly from “heavy losses

in Italy;” he was 18 when the family settled in

South Georgia, during the booming tourist economy

ushered in by Thomasville’s Resort Era.

“The Historical Society promotes [the] Resort

Era, from roughly 1875 to 1905, as the dominant

period in establishing Thomasville’s civic identity,”

Ephraim says. “From 1880 to 1890, Thomasville’s

population doubled.”

predicted that his images would come to serve

not only as lone visual samples of a booming,

post-emancipation Thomasville, but as Southern

contributions to the visual narrative of American

life at the turn of the 20th century.

According to Thomas County Historical Society

Curator of Collections Ephraim Rotter, A.W. was a

“middle-middle class” trained studio portraitist who

likely chose additional subjects – Resort Era hotels,

landmarks, African American life, plantations and

more – based on what would sell.

Ephraim works unceasingly to digitize the Historical

Society’s expanding lot of hundreds of thousands

of images, including 865 glass-plate negatives

and an estimated 1,000 prints and postcards from

Moller Studio alone. Former Thomasville Times-

Enterprise publisher Ed Kelly donated much of the

collection. Wendell Tidwell, whose family owned a

photography studio, donated two of A.W.’s cameras.

Other contributions, Ephraim says, come in from the

descendants of locals and tourists.

Before Henry Flagler expanded the American

railway down into Florida, the southernmost stop

was Thomasville. Midwesterners came to take in

the air and warmer, drier climate; they filled resort

hotels in the downtown area, bought plantations

and built homes – many of which are still standing

and on the historic register.

A.W. shot a vast range of subjects during that

time – the hotels and boarding houses, natural

and man-made landmarks, African American life,

Moller was one of

Thomasville’s first

storytellers, providing a

window into the earliest

chapters of our area’s

ongoing narrative.



Photo: A. W. Moller, Views of Thomasville and Vicinity, ca. 1880s

albumen print; 4 5/16 x 7 1/16 in. (10.95 x 17.94 cm)

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Accessions Committee Fund purchase. Photograph: Don Ross

Photo: A. W. Moller, Views of Thomasville and Vicinity, ca. 1880s

albumen print; 4 1/16 x 6 7/8 in. (10.32 x 17.46 cm)

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Accessions Committee Fund purchase. Photograph: Don Ross



“The time period [during which] A.W. lived and worked

in Thomasville really covers two, and almost three

economic periods.”

plantations, agriculture, recreation and street scenes

– in addition to the people who came to his Broad

Street portrait studio.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art acquired

the two Moller photographs in its permanent

collection in 2012, under the leadership of then-

Curator (now Curator Emerita) Sandra Phillips.

“Moller’s photographs were a natural addition to

our collection,” says SFMoMA Curatorial Assistant

Matthew Kluk, “displaying not only the built

environment of the South in the 1880s, but also how

slavery continued to affect the visual landscape


The Smithsonian National Museum of African

American History and Culture has also added several

of Moller’s photos, depicting African American life in

the South, to its permanent collection.

“Even though we describe it as lasting until 1905,

the Resort Era started to take a downturn in 1895,”



it like this: When A.W.

moved to Thomasville

in 1885, there were no

cars, no electricity, no

plumbing, no airplanes or

radio stations, no public

schools or paved roads,

and personal cameras

didn’t meaningfully

exist. These became

commonplace by the time

he passed away.”

says Ephraim. “From 1890 to 1900, the population

decreased. It took from 1900 to 1930 for it to double

in size again. By the 1910s, however, there were

positive developments, including several factories,

mills and works popping up around town, including

many in the Sandy Bottom district.”

According to Ephraim, the change from a touristbased

economy to an industrial one was significant

for both Thomasville and A.W.’s business. “The two

most impactful developments for Thomasville in

the last 15 years of A.W.’s life,” he says, “were the

founding of the Flowers Baking Company in 1919

and the building of Archbold Memorial Hospital in

1925 – to this day, two of the largest employers in


“As far as day-to-day life went, I’ll try to summarize

According to Historical

Society records, A.W.

lived a busy life. “He was

an active member of

Knights of Pythagoras,

Freemasons, Rotary Club

and longtime treasurer

at St. Thomas Episcopal

Church,” Ephraim says.

A.W. and his wife Annie

Woodward married

in 1891 and had five

children, three of whom

are buried at Laurel

Hill Cemetery; he would continue to shoot photos

alongside his son Charlie until becoming gravely ill

from kidney problems.

The photographic works of A.W. Moller, depicting

life in a multitude of subject areas, now invaluably

stand as lone visual samples of the area’s people,

places and things for the larger record. A.W. stands

as one of Thomasville’s first storytellers, providing

a window into the earliest chapters of our area’s

ongoing narrative – one that we, as Southerners and

creatives, now carry dutifully into the future.

A.W Moller






Written by

Alison Abbey

Photographs Courtesy of

The Dewberry Hotel




Stepping in to the rich, mid-century modern lobby of The Dewberry

hotel in Charleston is like walking into the home of your chicest and

most gracious friend. The staff is as warm and inviting as the space

(and the lowcountry air), greeting guests in the local drawl, helping

them settle in to their to-die-for rooms and, as any true Southerner

would do, punctuating their conversations with “yes sir” and “yes


It’s a literal display of new-meets-old South that makes it easy to see

why the guests are all so charmed. And no one is more proud of that

mix than owner and transplanted Charlestonian John Dewberry.

“We are ambassadors to this city, one of the first places people see

as they drive into the heart of downtown, and we want to be an

inviting presence and reflect the best of Charleston,” he says. “We are

constantly looking for novel ways to enhance that sense of place as it

relates to the guest experience. From the beginning, we collaborated

with some of Charleston’s most exciting tastemakers and artists.”

Dewberry, a longtime developer and hospitality visionary, was able to

curate his perfect hotel from the ground up when he came across the

building that now houses the hotel in 2008.

“I purchased 334 Meeting Street, which was home to the thenabandoned

L. Mendel Rivers Federal Building,” he explains. “The

building itself dates back to 1964, and it had a good run up until

“What we’ve

created is truly a

place for everyone.”



“The Dewberry, both inside and

out, is truly a manifestation of my

vision of ‘Southern Reimagined.’”

Hurricane Floyd came through in 1999. By the time

I bought the building from the government, it was

empty and a haunt for illicit activity. Almost no

Charlestonian wanted to save it, and few thought it

was a marquee destination.”

But, of course, today, it is.

Inspired by the structure, Dewberry knew from

the beginning that he wanted to offer an aesthetic

experience like none other in Charleston.

“I assembled a team of talented architects and

designers, and created a plan – working with the

Historic Charleston Foundation – to restore the

building to glory and transform it into a world-class

hotel that would be true to its history and midcentury

design roots but still capture Charleston’s

old-world charm,” he says. “We felt we had done

more than just build a five-star hotel – we had

also created a whole new school of thought about

design in the South and perhaps had rewritten the

playbook on preserving mid-century architecture.”

The timing couldn't have been more perfect.

Boutique hotels are currently projected to rake in

four times what their big-name chain competitors

are making, especially in small markets like

Charleston – or, perhaps someday soon, in

Thomasville. With conversations building around

the need for a hotel in the city, one can't help

but wonder how such a hotel project could serve

as a gateway to the culture and character of the


Eight years after its purchase, the hotel opened with

155 rooms, a stellar, brasserie-style restaurant –

Henrietta’s – and a living room complete with a bar

and gathering space, just as you would expect in any

grand Southern manner.

Varnished wood consoles, gilded sconces and

chandeliers, and plush seating vignettes give the

common areas a distinctive mid-century chic vibe,



while the hotel’s boutique,

The Field Shop (curated

by Garden & Gun), pays

homage to the area’s roots,

with a mix of items that

wink at the themes of

hunting and gathering.

“The Dewberry, both

inside and out, is truly a

manifestation of my vision of ‘Southern

Reimagined,’” says Dewberry.

And then there’s the spa. Dewberry

worked closely with beauty and

wellness guru Lydia Mondavi to create an oasis

that’s relaxing, chic and definitively Charleston,

implementing ingredients from the lowcountry into

the treatments. Among those ingredients are sea

salt (a nod to the nearby beaches) and the native

dewberry plant. Naturally.

Together, Dewberry and Mondavi created a

coastally inspired spa menu featuring treatments

like The Dewberry Carolina Cocoon, a Detoxifying

Seaweed Leaf Wrap and the Gentleman’s Atlantic

Ocean Facial. The spa’s décor draws influence from

another local haunt: Dewberry’s own carriage

house. With its cypress covered walls, warm hues

and plush lounges, it’s a soothing space in which to

lose yourself and release any lingering tensions.

The hotel’s location in the heart of Charleston

further solidifies its iconic status – across from

Marion Square and the farmers’ market, a block

removed from King Street shopping and in the

heart of Meeting Street’s Museum Mile, with stellar

views of the famed Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.

A native of Virginia, Dewberry first fell in love

with the city when he was a student at Georgia

Tech. Charleston made such an impression on the

businessman that he purchased some of his first

properties there in the late ‘80s, before eventually

buying a home for his family there in 2003. He now

splits his time between Charleston and Atlanta and

escapes to a third home in County Clare, Ireland,

during the hot Southern summer months.

But don’t call it a vacation. Dewberry’s travels -

which include quails hunts in Thomasville - have

informed his attitude on hospitality, especially via

his visits to five-star locations throughout Europe.



It’s a literal display of new-meets-old South that makes

it easy to see why the guests are all so charmed.

“Research, I call it,” he chuckles.

That research has paid off, giving Dewberry what he

calls “a crystal clear idea” of how he wants guests to

feel at his hotel.

“The Dewberry style of service emphasizes sincerity

over obligation. We are devoted to attending to our

guest wants and needs,” he says. “From the design

of the chairs and procurement of vintage furniture

to lighting and artwork and wallpaper to our own

bespoke amenities and scent – I can comfortably

say that what you see and experience is a distinctly

high level of detail.”

Dewberry is working to expand that brand of luxury,

using the Charleston hotel as a flagship location

that will inspire future outposts, including a

planned hotel in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“Our aim is to be considered one of the best

hotel brands in the world, not just

Charleston. Each of

our hotels will aim to be a quintessential five-star

representation of the city in which it resides,” he

says. “I think that’s a huge part of what keeps new

guests coming and returning guests coming back.

Through The Dewberry, they see Charleston as it

was, as it is today and, perhaps, as it may evolve in

the future.”

When asked about his hotel’s philosophy, Dewberry

doesn’t hesitate.

“What we’ve created is truly a place for everyone.

What I mean by that is this: The Dewberry serves

as an awe-inspiring place of wonder to a curious

eight-year old, a taste of the good life for an

ambitious 30-year old and the well-earned privilege

of accomplishment for a 68-year old,” he says. “Fivestar

but down-to-earth. The Dewberry is luxury with

a soul.”

The Dewberry Hotel




Written by

Stephanie Burt

Photographed by

Cary Norton



While most of us only enjoy the traditional

Thanksgiving meal once a year, there is a man

whose work you know (but whose name you

probably don’t) who typically tastes more than

20 or 30 turkeys for each holiday table. That’s

a lot of turkey, even for a food lover like Robby

Melvin, Southern Living Test Kitchen Director and

Recipe Developer for Time Inc. Food Studios in

Birmingham, Alabama.

This chef is tasked with not only creating the

recipes that will tempt many to try something

new for the gathering, but assuring that all

those birds and their backup side dishes will

have the show-stopping good looks to make you

pause on the page.

“I couldn’t do what I do, what we do, without

a dedicated team of people,” he says. “We have

a system of checks and balances to avoid

poaching ourselves, and it keeps us on our toes

to be as creative and as innovative as we can.”

His recipe for success walks the thin line

of staying true to Southern classics while

creating variations that feel fresh. Frankly, it’s

a lot for a summer day: the scent of roasted

turkey juxtaposed with the Alabama heat and

humidity just outside the building. Staging

a Thanksgiving feast as the temperatures

rise is just part of the strange world of recipe


Robby began his career with Chef Frank Stitt,

then worked his way up to chef de cuisine under

Chef Chris Hastings at Hot and Hot Fish Club while

becoming an instructor and private caterer, too. He

takes it all in stride, although he might need to blast

a little old school hip hop music to power through

a break in the kitchen, where he can walk over to

a fridge stocked with LaCroix sparkling water for a

refreshing palate cleanser.

A typical week for Robby means that he and his

team test approximately 200 recipes, and when prep

for the holiday editions comes due, that number can

even reach higher. That’s a lot of writing, tweaking,

testing and tasting for a man who has to constantly

consider the reader’s comfort level, while at the

same time, inspiring them to try something new.

“Our goal is to constantly inspire the home cook

with techniques – both old and new – and creative

use of ingredients,” he explains. “I feel we do this

month after month with all of our recipes. With



“It’s the small discoveries for me that are exciting –

when I hit on something that seems like a simple

variation but it changes everything, and it’s delicious.”

each recipe we try to bring something new to the

table – something that interests us – and spin that

in a way that any home cook can utilize. Often, we

simply try to breathe new life into classic recipes.”

For instance, take the classic, fruity Southern

Hummingbird Cake, the most requested recipe in

the history of Southern Living. Obviously, the original

recipe is tried and true, but the Southern Living team



capitalized on popular interest and

created an additional five variations

on the classic, including a multi-tiered

version that adds white chocolate.

Test that many recipes a week, and any

cook, despite the lovely setting of the

sparkling new Time Inc. Test Kitchen

and Food Studios, will need inspiration

to continue to stay fresh. For that,

Robby ventures out into his hometown

of Birmingham, a city blessed with a

food scene that continually piques his

interest, with classic eateries such as

Highlands to the blossoming tiendas

and taquerias of the Latino community.

Currently, Robby is especially enamored

with Mi Pueblo Supermarket, located

in a former K-Mart turned grocery

store with an “incredible restaurant in

the back,” he says. “I love to just turn

off and go in and enjoy browsing, and

then have some fresh, simple food at

the restaurant there. It packs so much

feeling into every bite, and for some

reason, I always come out refreshed,

ready to cook again.”

These days he oversees recipe

development for multiple Time Inc.

titles, including Coastal Living and

Country Living, but it is his work at

Southern Living with which he is still

primarily associated. “The Southern

Living reader is hands down the most

loyal out there. They are constantly

inspiring us,” he says. “What’s been

great is, as they've changed, we have

too, almost hand in hand,”

Robby notes the strong tradition of

tested and well-crafted recipes that the

magazine has built through its 50 plus

years. “We've found that the traditions



passed on from grandmother to granddaughter and

then to great-granddaughter have kept us with one

foot firmly planted in the traditions of Southern

food ways, and the other continually stepping

forward into the future of Southern food with

younger generations.”

To that end, he really feels that beet salads with goat

cheese are tired and that “kale, though great, and

now always part of the table, has had its big day.” On

the other end of the spectrum, Robby predicts that

egg dishes of all types, as well as the creative use

of nuts, are about to be big. And he should know, as

he is in some ways fueling those trends through his

work. It’s a job and a responsibility that he doesn’t

take lightly.

“It’s the small discoveries for me that are exciting

– when I hit on something that seems like a

simple variation but it changes everything, and it’s

delicious,” he says. “I always want to give the home

cook a teachable point.”

It’s that constant balance between old and new

that makes Robby’s job so engaging, and in

reality, it reflects the South and its food culture

rather accurately. Many of us know how to make

kombucha or score a wonderful runny cheese from

France, but we also like a good bowl of red beans

and rice or roasted turkey with all the fixings – and

a hummingbird cake for dessert.



Written by

Jennifer Buller

Photographed by

the Art


Ronnie Stripling


& Marné Vermaak



“Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.”

- James Joyce, Ulysses

Place has a profound effect on the stories we tell. The places we come from, the places

we’ve been, the places that we imagine hold some secret promise. But place, as beauty, is

very much in the eye of the beholder. How a place can strike us and shape us is rarely the

same for two people.

Thomasville, in my geographical Rorschach test, is a place where longleaf pines soar and

spring storms rumble. A place where bumpy brick roads and chance meetings mean you



best not be in a hurry. I had my first kiss here. My

people are laid to rest on Laurel Hill. It’s the only

semblance of roots I have in this life lived on the

move. I’ve spent more years away from this place

than I have here and yet, without it, my story is


The stories told by the two featured artists at this

year’s Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival – sculptor

Tom Hill from Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, and

South African painter Michelle Decker – are also

deeply suggestive of the places they call home. At

the same time, they remind us how our own stories

are shaped – sometimes most profoundly – by our

experiences elsewhere.

Tom Hill never strays too far from what he calls

“the Shire.” And while that may evoke hobbit-holes



At the same time,

they remind us how

our stories are shaped

– sometimes most

profoundly – by our

experiences elsewhere.

and Bagginses for some of us, Tom’s Shire is a

bucolic greenbelt north of London designed to

keep the urban sprawl in check. His childhood

was spent scaling the fences on the family

farm, riding the hunt in a beaters wagon and

tinkering with tractors and classic cars – in fact,

he made quite a name for himself restoring a

1930s Model A hotrod before landing a job in

the big city.

The way back home to Hertfordshire and

life as a visual artist took Tom the “longest

way round,” like Joyce suggested. A season

snowboarding with the Whistler brothers

confirmed what he already knew – there’s more

to life than the 9-to-5 grind – and the sheer

variety of sculpture he saw driving down the

California coast opened his eyes to the creative


“It just kind of got me hooked,” Tom

remembers, “and I thought I’d have a go when

I got back.” He began welding as sculpture and

developed a knack for finding personality in the

inanimate, creating, as he put it, “a sculpture

that has a life in it.”

Before we take too much credit for what he

calls “The American dream, but doing it in

England,” I should point out that Tom’s work

couldn’t be more English if it served you tea.

His sculptures, made by welding together



cast-off horseshoes from the family farm, hit all the

home notes – a twelve-point stag, foxhounds on the

chase, his trademark horses. His commissions come

from patrons like Lord and Lady Salisbury and the

organizers of the 2012 London Olympics.

Place is just as fundamental to the work of Michelle

Decker. Her larger-than-life paintings of South

African wildlife are the culmination of endless

hours in the bush, where she has sharpened her eye

for the quirks that reveal an animal’s true self – the

flick of a tufted ear, the tilt of a striped head.

It’s all about “finding the common ground

between humans and animals,” Michelle says, and

acknowledging that we share emotions like pride,

fear and longing. With her stark white backdrops

and monochromatic palette, nothing comes between

you and the raw experience of the animal spirit.

During a six-week stint as Artist in Residence at

Studio 209, Michelle turned her artistic eye to the

fauna of Thomasville and environs. That meant

recognizing what is truly wild and even dangerous

in Africa is likely, in the Red Hills region, the product

of careful conservation efforts. Widening her gaze

to our more common critters and expanding her

definition of wildlife towards the domesticated

became its own vocabulary: the squirrel and the

birddog, the Tennessee Walker and the fox as

synonymous with this landscape as lions in the

African bush.

There was something liberating about following

her muse to these unexpected places during her

Studio 209 residency, Michelle says. The impact was


It’s all about “finding the common ground

between humans and animals,” Michelle says.

personal. She was embraced by a community and, to

her mind, “surrounded by people who are trying to

do good.”

Small, out-of-the-way Thomasville was a haven for

people who rally together to create positive change.

Its rich traditions and strong values took Michelle

back to her childhood and to some important life

lessons. “I feel like a better person when I’m there,”

she says. “I try to do better and be better.”

James Joyce said that Dublin, the place I call home

today, was written on his heart. He turned his back

on this “fair city” with half his life still before him,

yet hardly a line he penned could deny her. Places

give our stories their weight. Though we may leave

them, they anchor us still.


Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival Featured Painter

Tom Hill

Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival Featured Sculptor


“Art is not what you see,

but what you make others see.”

-Edgar Degas







Put more life in your time.

Nestled in a diverse, historic neighborhood

just steps from trails, parks, and all downtown

has to offer, the high-design, low-maintenance

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My Way

DECEMBER 9 & 10, 15-17, 2017

Talking With

APRIL 20-22, 28 & 29, 2018

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presenting live entertainment year-round

since 1979

117 S. Broad Street, Downtown • (229) 226-0863


Experiment in


Written by

June Bailey White

Photographed by

Alicia Osborne

Drive along any country road in South Georgia and look out the car window.

Cow pasture, title pawn, peach orchard. Exfoliated cotton field, skinny dog, gas

station. Flea market in an abandoned chicken house, boiled peanuts, planted

pine trees. Cornfield, dump. Quail plantation, smell of smoke, burning woods.

Tomato plants in black plastic rows. Blueberries, farm stand. Wow! -- Olive trees!



Big lake, picnic pavilion, mowed grass in oak

tree shade.

It is so interesting to see all of this diversity

of land use in just a few country miles:

innovative agriculture, healthy recreation, the

latest advancements in silviculture. One thing

is the same about all of it, though: It is land

that has been put to use for the benefit of

human beings.

The Komareks

were innovative and

imaginative stewards.

What is rare to find in our people-centered

world is a piece of land that is managed not

for the good of its owners, but for the native

plants and animals that live there. One of

those unusual places is Birdsong Nature

Center: 565 acres in Grady County, Georgia,

managed for the benefit of woodpeckers,

purple martins, gopher tortoises, wild

petunias and all of the other plants and

animals that belong there.

This wasn't always so. For over a hundred

years, Birdsong was an intensively farmed

working plantation owned by generations of

the Dickey family. Starting in the 1840s, they

cleared the woods, terraced sloping land, and

built and expanded a log house. They grew

26 different crops, including cotton, peanuts,

tobacco and rice. At times, the land supported

as many as ten families.

In the 1930s, this tired old farm came into the

caring hands of Ed Komarek, his wife Betty,

and brother Roy. This was the beginning of

the fascinating, grand and slow experiment in




restoration that visitors to Birdsong Nature

Center see today.

The Komareks were innovative and

imaginative stewards. They built up the soil

by planting legumes and rotating crops, and

trying out new kinds of grasses as forage

for cattle. The creative and visionary Betty

Komarek turned the chicken yard into a

wildlife habitat, beautifully landscaped to

attract a great variety of birds, with high tree

cover, shallow water baths and plants that

provided natural food for seed eating and

nectar feeding birds.

Betty was a keen observer. After one

productive acorn year, she noticed hundreds

of live oak seedlings sprouting in a low

hammock, planted, she assumed, by blue

jays. Since the little trees seemed to thrive

in that place, she saw to it that they were

protected and encouraged to grow.

Noticing that successive broods of bluebirds

needed a constant supply of insects, she

instituted a mowing schedule in an old

field; alternating strips were cut at six-week

intervals along the tops of the terraces, so

newly emerging grasses provided cover and

food for hatching grasshoppers.

Betty turned the Komarek experiment into

the nonprofit Birdsong Nature Center in

1986. Betty’s land management legacy is

well maintained there. The old chicken

yard that she so beautifully landscaped for

birds is now one of the most spectacular

wildlife viewing areas in the country – the

Bird Window – used as a model by landscape


Those little trees planted by blue jays have

grown into a magnificent shady grove called

the Live Oak Hammock, and 43 adopted

boxes for cavity nesting birds are maintained



and monitored in the Gin House Field where

Betty began encouraging grasshoppers.

In 2016, what had previously been a farm

field was planted back to the longleaf pine

that grew there 300 years ago. With careful

burning and periodic mowing, native grasses

are returning so that gopher tortoises now

forage where Hereford cattle and open range

DeSoto crosses once grazed on bahaia grass


Today, visitors to Birdsong Nature Center can

attend classes for all ages, which are meant

to instill an appreciation of the outdoors and

education about natural history. Attendees

can learn to identify frogs by their songs,

dabble in the water at the edge of the pond

to see what tiny creatures they can dig up,

or collect mushrooms.

Members of the Friends of Birdsong and

volunteers contribute their talents to

the cause and upkeep of the land and its

facilities. There are mowed trails for walking

and a screened pavilion called The Listening

Place at the edge of the swamp, where in

the spring, anhingas, great blue herons and

egrets build their nests.

The overall feeling at Birdsong is

unmistakable: Human beings are visitors, as

the land that once belonged entirely to the

plants and animals that lived there is slowly

and carefully being returned to them.

Birdsong Nature Center





“Domi gave me the confidence to try

things I didn’t know were possible,”

Sabrina says.


Written by

Rob Rushin

Photographed by

Alex Workman

For a glimpse into the shriveled heart and soul of predatory capitalism, take

a gander at Alec Baldwin’s iconic turn in the 1992 movie Glengarry Glen Ross.

Baldwin portrays Blake, a “motivational” boss from hell who threatens that you

will either succeed or perish. Literally. “Always be closing!” is the ABC here, and

when one mope tries to pour himself a cuppa, Blake barks, “Put that down!

Coffee is for closers.” It is one of American cinema’s most quoted scenes.

Quick cut to 2017 and a trackside brick building in Tallahassee where a new

breed of aspiring entrepreneurs is gearing up to take the world by storm.

Nobody works under duress. Nobody lives in terror of failing. In fact, failure is

embraced as an opportunity to learn, an essential part of the process.

Sure, an idea gone wrong brings disappointment, even despair. But that’s where

working in a cooperative and supportive community pays dividends: You’re in

a boat with a bunch of folks like yourself, people who are happy to help you get

up, dust off and forge ahead.

Welcome to Domi Station, a business incubator/accelerator and co-working

beehive that is the antithesis of the beat down culture of Glengarry. Domi’s

leadership – Executive Director Lucas Lindsey, Director of Community Sabrina

Torres and Director of Programs Dominick Ard’is – embodies a collective polar

opposite to Baldwin’s motivational monster. The coffee? It flows freely for the





Everyone wants to

succeed, but most of the

people you meet at Domi

are just as concerned with

giving back.

makers and dreamers and doers willing to invest

the long hours necessary to build something out of

nothing. Pour another cup. Then get back to work.

Still, this is a tough love operation. The Domi

triumvirate is not interested in excuses for missed

deadlines or promised milestones. But even as

they hold your feet to the fire, their commitments

and – well, let’s be sappy – love for their charges is

authentic. They will do everything they can to help

you succeed, but they won’t do the work for you.

It’s hard to argue with results. During their first

three years, Domi members generated $8 million in

revenue and $5 million in investment.

The ABC for Domi is “Always Be Connecting.” Domi’s

list of partners is impressive: Florida Agricultural

and Mechanical University, Florida State University,

Tallahassee Community College, Leon County,

Launch Florida, Florida League of Cities and the

Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

As soon as you think you have a handle, Lucas

and team add more nodes to their network, more

components to their education program, and

a geographic reach that extends well beyond

Tallahassee to places like Tampa, the Space Coast,

North Carolina’s Research Triangle, Atlanta, Orlando

and Miami, and to dozens of local and regional

public and private concerns.

A brand new joint venture between Domi, FAMU

and the Office of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum

is the I/O Avenue Coding Academy. This 12-week



intensive program aims to fill a skills gap that

leaves hundreds of well paying jobs in the

Tallahassee technology sector unfilled each

year. More than 200 people applied for 18 slots

in the inaugural session.

Director of Programs Dominick Ard’is may be

the toughest of the tough love dispensers, but

the love he brings to his work always shines

through. If you show up ready to give your all,

Dom will go to the barricades on your behalf.

Of the three dozen entrepreneurs who endured

Dominick’s mentorship and cajoling in his

Get Started program so far, at least ten have

launched new businesses – covering a range

of occupations from fitness trainers to custom

bedding specialists to gourmet pico de gallo

artisans. The program is demanding, but it gets


Everyone wants to succeed, but most of the

people you meet at Domi are just as concerned

with giving back. Take a look at DivvyUp, a

custom sock company. As sophomores at FSU,

founders Mitch Nelson and Jason McIntosh

envisioned a for-profit business that donated

a new pair of socks to a homeless shelter for

every pair sold.

After three years of working fulltime for no

pay – while they completed their degrees

– and after working through a variety

of manufacturers, brand messages and

distribution schemes, DivvyUp now employs a

staff of several dozen. They have so far donated

more than 16,000 pairs of socks to people

who need them most. Not bad for a couple of

college kids who borrowed $400 to launch a

crazy dream.

Jason notes, “Domi Station was pivotal in

DivvyUp's growth, from co-working space to

critical mentorship. Tallahassee is a special city

with the right ingredients to launch an idea.”



“You realize that all you need is perseverance

and an idea you feel passionate about.”

Domi and its partners are pushing back against

the cliché that the Tallahassee economy is a

bland landscape of nothing but government and

higher education. The Domi idea envisions a third

component, something home grown and organic:

a network of economic drivers that takes root and

thrives in harmony with the needs and strengths of

the local culture.

Strengthening this entrepreneurial ecosystem – both

in Tallahassee and the Big Bend region writ large –

is key to attracting and retaining the young talent

that can create a stabilizing third leg of economic

support. The vision extends well beyond Tallahassee

proper, to at least as far north as Thomasville, where

Domi is launching a partnership with Thomasville

Center for the Arts to turn up the heat for aspiring

local entrepreneurs.

It comes down to hard work and determination,

the secret sauce that is never really a secret. Lucas

likens Domi to open source architecture for software

development, an established, freely available

framework that lets motivated actors build upon

a proven methodology. That’s why the Domi team

shares openly with anyone who wants to learn how

to re-create the “stream of opportunity” that Domi


But nobody is resting on past achievement. Lucas

remarks, “No matter how much we’ve done, we

should be more connected than we are.”

Always Be Connecting. It’s as easy as ABC.




The success of arts

integration spread excitement

and motivation in classrooms

across the county as students

were shaped to think more



Written by

Katie Mitchell

Photographed by

AJ Reynolds

All it takes is one peek


into Sims Academy of

Innovation and Technology

to see that it’s not your

typical high school. An

ultramodern facility nestled among the rolling pastures of Barrow County,

Georgia, Sims provides an astonishing contrast to its rural surroundings. A

typical student here might be serving lunch in a starched white chef’s jacket,

producing a film, or performing automobile repairs. Innovation is everywhere.

Sims is a shining example of the magic that can happen when a school system

combines science and the arts across the curriculum – It’s an approach that



can ignite a fire within any student. Based on

the National Career Clusters Framework, the

curriculum is designed around 17 different paths,

from architecture and construction to tourism and

culinary arts.

No matter which pathway a student chooses, they

all offer project-based learning to sharpen critical

thinking skills for real life success. The results are

undeniably impressive. In culinary arts, you will

find students managing a restaurant kitchen and

operating a café on campus, serving locals the kind

of fare that most would expect from a five star



A curricular transformation has bolstered

a strong community where families are

grateful to live, work, play and learn.

restaurant. In the agricultural education pathway,

students manage a fully operational greenhouse that

sells flowers to the community.

The story is the same in each area of focus –

hospitality students manage a gift boutique and

coffee shop, information technology students create

apps and web pages, and the engineering students

build working robots.

Through the teaching of practical skills, Science,

Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education





and artistic guidance, Sims provides students with

real world experience, following a mission to bring

up capable and confident future business leaders

who are prepared to excel in any path they choose

after high school – whether it’s college life or an

immediate transition to career. The experience is


Though Barrow County was once one of the fastest

growing areas in the state, it was hit hard during the

Though it didn’t happen overnight, the outcome

has been transformative. “Sims' planning really

began before the recession, but it morphed over the

years,” Dr. McMichael says. “Now there are strong

ties between Sims, the University of Georgia and the

University of North Georgia, local business leaders

and the Georgia Board of Education.”

By way of focused planning and these dedicated

community partnerships, Barrow County schools

recession almost a decade ago. Dr. Chris McMichael,

Superintendent of Barrow County Schools, says

that he saw arts integration as an answer to the

challenges of stalled economic growth.

They wanted something more engaging, Dr.

McMichael says, to pique student interest in

learning. “I began as an art teacher, so I know what

it could do. We began slowly, and the curriculum

really caught fire in the middle schools with our

project based learning arts integration model.” The

success of arts integration spread excitement and

motivation in classrooms across the county as

students were shaped to think more creatively.

have begun to thrive and arts integration continues

to guide the county’s strategy for the coming years.

In a national climate that often values engineering

or mathematics above the arts, Dr. McMichael sees

them as equally necessary factors of a student’s

educational experience. He says the school plans to

soon move from a STEM certification to a Science,

Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM)


Sims has also sustained a countywide partnership

with ArtsNow to help achieve full arts integration

across the district. ArtsNow, an organization that

also partners with Thomasville Center for the Arts



to develop new education programs for area schools,

has begun a foundational training program in

Barrow County.

In a repurposed middle school building, under the

guidance of ArtsNow instructors, Barrow County

teachers learn innovative strategies to increase

creative thinking and academic growth across the

curriculum. The goal is to implement a countywide

arts integration model and eventually create a

and Barrow’s forthcoming 600-seat indoor theater

as “places for gathering together – real community

centers” born of “a partnership that is beneficial for

the whole community.”

The results of local support have not only been

transformative for Barrow County students and

parents but also for county residents at large as

the schools are quickly becoming the center of a

thriving community.

magnet arts school for grades four through eight.

In addition to Dr. McMichael’s leadership and

ArtsNow’s innovative guidance, Sims Academy relies

on partnerships with local businesses ranging from

Georgia BioEd Institute to Chateau Elan, Hitachi-

Zosen, Lanier Technical College and numerous local

contractor supply companies.

A curricular transformation has bolstered a strong

community where families are grateful to live,

work, play and learn. The results are invaluable to

the region as students are motivated by science,

technology and the arts across the curriculum to

reach higher, think creatively and be ready for any

challenge that comes their way.

As a result of a special purpose local-option sales

tax referendum, a 1,500 seat amphitheater opened

in the summer of 2017 on the Sims campus with a

community concert by country artist Montgomery

Gentry. Dr. McMichael sees the new amphitheater

Sims Academy of

Innovation and Technology



“We knew the pieces were there.

We just needed to think a little out

of the box to get where we

wanted to go.”



Going Small

to Live


Written by

Ben Brown

Photographed by

Ronnie Stripling

The last thing Ocean Springs, Mississippi, architect Bruce

Tolar imagined in 2005 was that he was about to help birth a

neighborhood design movement. Or that a milestone in the

movement’s coming of age was likely to occur 15 years later in a

historic downtown neighborhood in Thomasville, Georgia.

That fall, Bruce and his family were crowded inside a travel

trailer, similar to the FEMA trailers that would soon house many

others after Hurricane Katrina leveled much of the Mississippi


“We were grateful for shelter,” says Bruce. “But we knew one

thing for sure, a trailer is not a place to call home.”

That thought dominated discussions during the October

2005 Mississippi Renewal Forum convened by then-Governor

Haley Barbour. Its goal: to inspire innovations, not only for

the immediate, post-Katrina recovery, but also for rebuilding

communities in ways that assured resident security and

prosperity for generations to come.



New housing types were high on the agenda, with

compactness and affordability as key criteria. Bruce and his

forum colleagues knew from their experience with private

clients, including those who could afford much bigger homes,

that there were ways to go small and still live large.

Before the storm, Bruce designed and built custom homes in

the exclusive communities of Rosemary Beach, WaterSound

and WaterColor on Florida’s northwest coast. Though large

compared to the Katrina Cottage designs that emerged

from the forum, many of those high-end beach houses

occupied smaller lots and contained less square footage than

suburban McMansions in the same premium price range.

Bruce was convinced that Katrina Cottage-type homes could

provide a model beyond the storm zone. So he acquired a

parcel with walkability to Ocean Springs’ downtown, and over

the next four years, populated it with 15 Katrina Cottages.

Next door, private developers copied the idea, building 29

rental units based on Tolar designs and others inspired by

the Katrina Cottage effort. And in Pass Christian to the west,

Bruce and the same developers built another cluster of intown


Bruce and his forum colleagues knew from their

experience with private clients, including those who

could afford much bigger homes, there were ways to

go small and still live large.



Those models made Bruce Tolar a go-to expert

on the design and construction of infill cottage

neighborhoods. Yet, despite their ambitions, many

communities struggled to piece together the

components required to overcome marketplace

and policy barriers. If the approaches Bruce and

his colleagues were exploring were to have the

impact they hoped, there had to be tweaks not just

in house design, but also in the ways housing and

neighborhoods are planned and financed.

A key reason that Bruce’s clients in those luxury

communities in Florida paid a premium for smaller

personal space was access to high value public



amenities: the beach and

shopping and entertainment

within walking distance. Ocean

Springs, a historic waterfront

town with even more walkable

choices, offered the same


Here’s the difference:

Affordability for the Florida

beachfront properties was

determined by the capacities

of high-wealth buyers to

cover the costs of location

desirability. In Ocean Springs,

where affordability at lower

income ranges was a priority,

the marketplace premium for

location would have contorted

private developers’ budgets

and forced price points beyond

affordability targets.

“What made the numbers

work for us was a publicprivate

partnership,” says

Bruce. “Developers bought the

land. Federal and state grants

helped pay costs for many of

the units. The town supported

our goals. And a nonprofit,

Mercy Housing and Human

Development, got grants to help

with landscaping and other

elements that lowered costs and

increased the appeal of the new


The thriving South Georgia town

of Thomasville didn’t have an

obvious housing emergency. But

like many other communities in

America, it had gaps in quality

housing choices for a broader

range of incomes and lifestyles.



Thomasville didn’t have a hurricane. But, says Bruce,

“what they did have was a sense of urgency to make

something really good happen, plus the right people

and the right institutions to see it through.”

And, says Bruce, it had something else: “a sense of

urgency to make something really good happen,

plus the right people and the right institutions to

see it through.”

The City of Thomasville committed to revitalizing

a historic in-town neighborhood. It joined with

five nonprofits – the Thomas County Land Bank

Authority, the Landmarks historic preservation

group, Habitat for Humanity and the Williams

Family Foundation of Georgia – to piece together

properties to create a 10-acre subsection of the

existing neighborhood that was to become Victoria

Park. And they added supportive infrastructure,

including sewer and water connections.

That groundwork reduced costs for a newly formed

company of design and development professionals

that included Bruce, John Anderson of Portland,

Oregon, David Kim of New York, and Will Burgin of

Columbus, Georgia.

The timing couldn’t have been better. The

Thomasville plan coalesced as a growing number

of policymakers and real estate pros across the

country were becoming convinced that new

demographic and marketplace realities required

new approaches to housing.

representing those generations echoed precisely

those desires.

By this fall, the first two cottages of Victoria Park

will be out of the ground and offered for sale below

$200,000, the most in-demand price range for new

housing in America. Building on Katrina Cottage

lessons, the cottages will maximize space and

energy efficiency without sacrificing design quality.

Which means, among other details, nine-foot

ceilings, ample windows and premium construction

materials inside and out.

Anticipating demand for even more options, the

Bruce-Anderson-Kim-Burgin group began the

process of acquiring adjacent parcels on which

to add more cottage courts and small-scale

multifamily rentals. Over time, more than 130 new

units could fill Victoria Park, increasing the potential

impact of the Thomasville model nationwide.

“We’re getting a high quality, small-scale

development that strengthens a historic, close-in

neighborhood,” says Brian, “and we’re expanding

choices for lots of folks anxious to take advantage

of downtown life without having to get into a car for

every task.”

“We recognize what lots of other towns recognize

– a growing demand, especially from young

professionals and downsizing baby boomers, to

live where they can walk or bike to where they

work and play,” says Thomasville city planner

Brian Herrmann. Indeed, during informal focus

group discussions in Thomasville, participants




June Bailey White has

lived all of her life in Thomasville,

Georgia. Now retired, she taught

first grade at Jerger School for

many years and also had a career

as a writer. Her latest book is

Nothing with Strings.

Jennifer Buller Currently

living in her 39th house, Jennifer

is a freelance writer and translator.

The erstwhile brat of an Army

colonel and a Thomasville High

School salutatorian, she is the

trailing spouse of her German

man of mystery. Her writing gigs have run the

international gamut: from PR for Italian travel

and programs for the Braunschweig Ballet to

an anthology recently launched at Dublin’s Red

Line Book Festival. She is a graduate of UVA and

Middlebury, a mother of two and a frequent,

grateful visitor to Thomasville, which she likes to

call her forever home.

STEPHANIE Burt grew up

in Charlotte, North Carolina,

on good Southern cooking and

lots of books. She received both

her BA and MA in English from

UNC Charlotte, where she taught

English and American Studies.

Her writing has taken her from the haunted halls

of old mountain mansions to the white beaches of

the west coast of Florida, but these days, all things

culinary fill her plate. She’s the creator and host of

The Southern Fork podcast and a freelance writer for

a variety of publications, from Bake From Scratch to


KATIE MITCHELL is a freelance

writer and a composition instructor

at Brenau University, where she also

directs the Writing Center. A native

Georgian, she enjoys using writing

to explore the changing nature of

the South and Southern identity.

Her work has been featured on Sweatpants & Coffee,

Mamalode, Alternet and The Huffington Post, among

others. She is currently creating a series of online

writing courses for women. She resides in Cumming,

Georgia, with her two energetic kids and one lazy

brown Labrador.

AJ Reynolds is an Atlantabased

sports and documentary

photographer and the multimedia

editor at Brenau University. Having

previously worked at the Athens

Banner-Herald, he is no stranger

to spending Saturday afternoons

between the hedges and Friday nights at the 40 Watt.

In 2015, AJ received the Photographer of the Year

award from the Georgia Press Association. When

not behind the lens, AJ is probably watching soccer,

debating which coffee beans to buy or being accused

of talking too fast.

Rob Rushin is a writer and

musician based in Tallahassee,

Florida. An insatiable seeker of

stories, he used to believe a cup of

coffee and a good book made the

best of all parties until he thought

to add cheesecake to the menu. He

is a father of two, well and truly married and a lover

of dogs. He has written for the Tallahassee Democrat

and is a regular contributor to The Bitter Southerner. He

is currently at work on a collection of essays and two



Illustrators, Photographers, Writers and Graphic Designers

Please contact: Thomasville Center for the Arts | (229) 226-0588 |

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