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‘Mrs. Brown’ gets ready for end-of-year program

A photo of the original Mrs. Brown’s class.
A photo of the original Mrs. Brown’s class.

EDITOR’S NOTE: ‘Talk of the Town’ is a column written by the Town of Jonesborough to further inform its residents on a variety of topics. Look for it every other week in the Herald & Tribune.

On Thursday, May 5, the McKinney Center will honor a 75-year-old tradition with a program highlighting student art work and talent in an event called Mrs. Brown’s End of the Year Program.
The showcase is named after Mrs. Ethel Brown, a teacher at Booker T. Washington School. The school is now the renovated and renamed McKinney Center,  an arts center housing Jonesborough’s Mary B. Martin Program for the Arts.
In the spring of 1941, during the inaugural school year at Booker T. Washington School in Jonesborough, Mrs. Brown first invited the community to see the incredible work done by her students, not only in academics, but in literature, music, poetry, theatre and dance.
Jonesborough resident Elmer Gillespie was a student under direction of Mrs. Brown, and in an oral history interview, he recalled how she would have students memorize and recite poetry and prose.
“I remember one year, she had me do a dance. Of course, I had gotten new shoes for this and they were really slippery. I started sliding all over the stage and the audience clapped for me,” Gillespie said. “They thought I was doing a really fast new dance, but I wasn’t even dancing, I was just trying to keep from falling!”
Mr. Gillespie also remembers, on the night of the program, the school bus would go out to Limestone and to Washington College Station Road to pick up families so they could watch the children in the end of the year program. It was a big community event that would become an annual program where students showcased their talents. Now, 75 years later, the McKinney Center is marking the occasion with a student art exhibition and performance, continuing Mrs. Brown’s legacy.
Mrs. Brown’s End of the Year Program is free and open to the public from 6 to 7 p.m. at the center.  The event will begin with a student art exhibit and refreshments. Classrooms and hallways will be filled with the artwork of all ages ranging from children to adults.
The art work will include oil paintings, water colors, drawings, ceramics, pottery, sculptures, mosaics, fused glass and more.
At 6:30 p.m., audiences are invited to the auditorium for a series of short performances, a bucket drumming demonstration and a hip-hop demonstration from classes held at the McKinney Center.
This showcase of talent highlights the many art programs now held at the McKinney Center. These arts education classes follow the school semester timeline: provide summer programming as well as one-day workshops and art parties. Registration for the summer art camps is taking place through May 21. Art camps this summer include Art Trek, Ceramics and Pottery and Film Making. There is also a week-long course in Mosaics for older students and adults.
For more information about the McKinney Center’s Mrs. Brown’s End of the Year Program as well as upcoming arts programs, contact McKinney Center Director Theresa Hammons at: [email protected] or call 753-0562. The McKinney Center is located at 103 Franklin Avenue. in Jonesborough.