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Donation of $400,000 likely to make arts center in Jonesborough a reality

A significant gift to Jonesborough will help the Town hit the ground running on its reinvention of the old Booker T. Washington School.
At its Feb. 8 meeting, the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen was expected to approve a “memorandum of understanding” for a $400,000 donation from James C. Martin in memory of his late wife. The money will help create the Mary B. Martin Program for the Arts at the McKinney Cultural Center at the Booker T. Washington School.
“Mr. Martin and his family have done many good deeds and this is just the latest of them,” said Mayor Kelly Wolfe. “We hope to begin implementing this program even before we finish renovating the building.”
Jonesborough assumed ownership of the school in November 2009 through a quitclaim deed from the Washington County School System. In return, Jonesborough has promised an annual $25,000 contribution to the system.
Plans for the school are included in the Town’s Interpretive Master Plan, and are detailed as such: “To provide instruction and hands-on experiences in the arts for Jonesborough residents and visitors, the Booker T. Washington School, now used only for storage, should be acquired and renovated as a cultural arts center.”
The school, “housing the county’s educational program for African-American children,” would offer a cultural enrichment program” in partnership with Washington County schools and other area organizations and institutions,” the plan reads. “Located in the neighborhood surrounding Booker T. Washington School, a network of exterior exhibits could also tell the story of the early residents of Jonesborough, including the town’s African-American population. The Center and its program would honor the African-American community of Tennessee’s first town.”
In other news, the BMA plans to accept a resignation from Visitors Center Manager Heidi Ehle, who is leaving to take a job at East Tennessee State University.