Local residents make unique donations to Clayton Center

March 1, 2011
Contact: Karen Eldridge, Director of Communications
865-981-8207; karen.eldridge@maryvillecollege.edu

Gifts to the Clayton Center for the Arts don’t always come in the form of currency.

For three local donors, last year’s opening of the fine and performing arts center located on the campus of Maryville College presented an opportunity to give (or craft) a gift that would have personal meaning and, at the same time, help the Clayton Center become a unique gathering place for artists and art supporters in the region.

“Area residents have been extremely generous in making the Clayton Center a reality,” said Holly Jackson-Sullivan, vice president for advancement and community relations. “Through gifts of money, art, equipment, time and talent, donors are making a tremendous impact on the facility.”

Centuries-old painting added to College’s collection

An 18th-century oil painting by Francesco Zuccarelli hung in the home of Samuel E. Beall, Jr., and wife Mary Anne for years. After donating it to the Clayton Center, the two said they’re pleased more people will be able to enjoy the idyllic Italian landscape depicted in the painting.

“The painting belonged to my late brother, William P. Beall, who was an art enthusiast and decorator,” Beall said, explaining that the gift is from the Samuel E. Beall, Jr. Family Partnership in memory of William. “The College has been a favorite of ours through the years, and it is our wish that this painting be here.”

The Bealls made the presentation to Maryville College President Dr. Tom Bogart last semester, but the painting is not yet on display. College administrators hope to hang it in the Clayton Center sometime late in the spring of 2011, after artist-in-residence Mark Giangaspero has had a chance to properly clean it and secure it in its frame.

Giangaspero will be on campus the week of March 21, and the cleaning is expected to be completed then. Dr. Carl Gombert, professor of art at the College, said the artist-in-residence has extensive experience in repairing and restoring paintings. Because of the chemical process involved in cleaning a work of art, chemistry students, as well as art students, will be invited to observe the process.

Expressing his appreciation to the Bealls for their donation, Gombert called the Zuccarelli a “significant contribution” to the College’s art collection.

“Our students don’t have unlimited access to real art historical examples, so this is an important contribution,” the professor added.

Craftsman gives podium

Pete Dolan didn’t have to think too long about how he would support the Clayton Center.

Dolan, a third-generation woodworker and owner of Woodtec in Maryville, knew that the main theatre would need a nice portable podium to accommodate speakers and event emcees. After contacting officials in the College’s Advancement Division and telling them that he would be willing to build one, he set out to design a large podium that would complement the aesthetics of the Ronald and Lynda Nutt Theatre and handle the technology that speakers might use in their presentations.

Dolan and his wife, Sherrie Liafsha, live in downtown Maryville and said they have supported the plans for the Clayton Center for several years.

“We thought it would be fun to walk over [to the Clayton Center] and enjoy concerts and other events,” he said. “The podium was something we could give to support this place that is going to pull the community together.”

Dolan used cherry wood to construct the 45-inch-by-30-inch-by-22-inch cabinet, leaving spaces for lights, audio-visual ports and a pullout shelf. In total, he spent one week on the construction of the podium. In labor and materials, it is valued at $6,000.

“In imagining a civic arts center for Blount County, thousands of people agreed that this center should, among other functions, celebrate the arts and culture of this area,” said Jackson-Sullivan. “I believe it is very fitting that we now have a beautiful and functional podium that was crafted by a local artist and serves as a focal point on the Nita Eckles West stage for many events.

“We are very appreciative of the generosity of Mr. Dolan and Ms. Liafsha.”

Defibrillators can save lives

A Maryville native, Joe Emert said he has seen the area’s need for a civic arts center for decades. So when childhood friend Ed Harmon, who serves on Maryville College’s Board of Directors, approached him about joining the campaign for the Clayton Center for the Arts, Emert listened.

“We’ve needed this for years,” he said of the center. “It’s a great asset for the community. Everyone needs to support it.”

And Emert and wife Cindy are supporting it. The two made a donation to cover the costs of two automated external defibrillators (AEDs) that are now installed in the two buildings that comprise the Clayton Center for the Arts.

“Ed told us that we could donate money for a seat in the theatre or a brick paver, but we wanted to do something a little different,” he said.

It was natural for the Emerts to underwrite the costs of the defibrillators. Emert is a registered nurse by training who is now celebrating his 25th year as president of First Choice Medical in Maryville. The company’s main business is as a distributor for Medtronic’s spinal and biologics division. Metronic’s origins are in the development of cardiac pacemakers.

“They save lives,” Emert said of the defibrillators. “You hope these are never needed, but in the event that someone does go into cardiac arrest, they’re critical.”

Three Clayton Center staff members have completed CPR and AED training through the Blount County Chapter of the American Red Cross.

“Until now, Cooper Athletic Center was the only facility on campus equipped with AEDs,” said Jack Piepenbring, Maryville College director of safety and security. “With the wide use of the Clayton Center, these new defibrillators really are life-saving gifts.”

Campaign continues

The campaign for the Clayton Center for the Arts continues, Jackson-Sullivan said.

“It was a $47-million project, and we’ve raised all but about $5 million of the costs to build it and equip it,” she explained. “We are hoping to have the fundraising completed by May 2012. Numerous naming opportunities remain, including the chance to name the Art and Recital Hall building.”

The smaller of the two buildings that comprise the Clayton Center for the Arts, the Art and Recital Hall houses the Harold and Jean Lambert Recital Hall; the Blackberry Farm Gallery and student art gallery; the Silver Spoon Express café; and numerous classroom, studio and computer laboratory spaces.

Jackson-Sullivan said other naming opportunities include the outdoor plaza, student art gallery, costume shop and piano lounge, among others. Names can be added to brick pavers and theatre seats for donations ranging from $250 to $2,000.

“Naming buildings, rooms or furnishings in the Clayton Center is a wonderful way to honor or memorialize someone and support the arts at the same time,” she said. “These are gifts that generations will see – and benefit from – years from now.”

A list of available named spaces in the Clayton Center is available for download on the Maryville College website. Visit maryvillecollege.edu/giving/capital-projects/.

Interested individuals also are encouraged to contact Jackson-Sullivan at 865.273.8884 or holly.sullivan@maryvillecollege.edu.


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2013 semester is 1,168.