Bradford: Civic Arts Center will help community grow

March 19, 2009
Contact: Karen B. Eldridge, Director of News and Public Information
865.981.8207; karen.eldridge@maryvillecollege.edu

“Will it help the community to grow?”

Throughout much of his professional and civic life, Tutt Bradford has asked himself that question when he needed to decide what causes he would support.

Bradford, who owned and published The Daily Times newspaper from 1955 until 1989, shared this approach with his newsroom and advertising departments, always encouraging employees to promote the people, businesses, schools and organizations of Blount County.

Answering his question in the affirmative numerous times over the last half century, Bradford also helped expand Green Meadow Country Club. He joined politicians and other businessmen in forming the Oak Ridge Technology Corridor. He served on the boards of the Bank of Maryville and Maryville College and shared his business acumen as president of the Blount County Chamber of Commerce.

He helped raise funds for the new Blount County Public Library. He encouraged the formation of the Blount Hearing and Speech Services and its foundation.

And with the establishment of the Bradford Scholars program at Maryville College, he continues to help hundreds of local adults learn to read by providing for student tutors.

So when Bradford was approached by Maryville College President Dr. Gerald W. Gibson and Clayton Homes CEO Kevin Clayton to support the campaign for the Civic Arts Center (CAC), Bradford judged the proposal against his criterion: Would the facility help the community to grow?

The answer was an immediate one for Bradford.

“Yes. You can count on me.”

Backing the CAC

“The community needs a place like this,” Bradford said, referring to the major performing arts facility that is currently under construction on the Maryville College campus.

Bradford made a generous pledge to the CAC campaign during that visit by Gibson and Clayton. Today, he is encouraging others – especially “those who have a desire to see life improve in Blount County” – to join him in financially backing it.

Constructed through a partnership between the College and the cities of Maryville and Alcoa, the CAC will celebrate the art and culture of the Appalachian region by serving as a venue for local musicians, performers and artists. Its design will also accommodate plays and musicals, concerts by touring musicians and orchestras, traveling art exhibits, film series, children’s plays and presentations by nationally recognized speakers.

The price tag of the CAC is expected to be around $47.3 million. Partnering with the cities of Maryville and Alcoa and state and federal government, Maryville College committed to working with Clayton and other members of the CAC fundraising committee to raise the necessary dollars, in addition to donating the land where the facility will be located.

In January, the College launched a campaign to raise $3 million from the local community. The event was held at the Davis Lofts in downtown Maryville – an area of Blount County that Bradford has seen both flounder and flourish since his arrival here in 1955.

The Daily Times office building, located on the corner of College Street and Harper Avenue, is on the route of a pedestrian corridor that will eventually link the CAC with the public library.

Bradford said he believes the CAC will generate even more business for and interest in the redevelopment of downtown, and he believes communities grow and are strengthened when residents gather together to shop, eat, talk and be entertained.

He predicts that people will soon want to live in near proximity to shopping, dining and entertainment for economic reasons.

“The price of gas is going to get higher and higher, I’m afraid,” he explained.

Supporting a gathering place

Born in Columbia, S.C., Bradford spent most of his childhood in Spartanburg. The second of five children, he grew up in a modest household and had to go to work at an early age. An interest in music was sparked by an older sister who was trained as a concert pianist. (She graduated from Converse College and eventually went on to head the music program for Spartanburg City Schools.) As a boy, Bradford himself sang in the church choir, but paper routes and other jobs at the Hendersonville Times-News and Spartanburg Herald-Journal kept him from developing any talent he might have had.

As an adult, however, Bradford has enjoyed those activities that he describes as “the finer things in life” – plays, music, art, dance. He has supported several art organizations, financially and visibly.

Experiencing so much joy from the fine arts throughout his life, Bradford admits that he is dismayed by people’s reliance on the Internet and television for their entertainment and enlightenment. One hope that he has for the CAC is that it gets people out of their houses and away from screens – be they computer, television, cell phone or BlackBerry.

It was the description of the CAC as a “gathering place” that really resonated with him, he said. In his professional life, after all, newspapers served as such. While at the helm of The Daily Times, Bradford took circulation from 7,500 to 22,000.

“The best way for newspapers to grow is to help communities grow.”

Clearly, Bradford understands growth.

And he understands commitment to community just as well.

“I saw the Civic Arts Center as a part of the growth that I’d been working for for years,” he said.

For more information on the Civic Arts Center or to make a gift to the project, contact Holly Jackson-Ludlow at 865.273.8884 or holly.ludlow@maryvillecollege.edu.