Founded in 1963 by a small group of committed citizens, the Creative Arts Guild is the oldest community arts organization in the state of Georgia and the only multidisciplinary facility in northwest Georgia.
The founders — Bob Culpepper, Marie Stull Crosby, Keith Gregory, Maydell Harden, Oscar and Peggy Jonas, Hugh Kemp, Marjorie and Travis Rhodes, Eli and Bernice Rosen, Gerald and Bernice Spigel, Peter Spirer, Tom Stull, and John and Jody Tillotson — made their dream a reality with remarkable vision and tireless work.
The original 10,000-square-foot facility, constructed 31 years ago with private support from the community, has recently undergone a transformation. With the relocation of the gymnastic and dance programs to a new facility on Cleveland Highway, the Guild’s footprint has been expanded to a total of 33,600 square feet.
The Waugh Street facility now incorporates the Main Gallery, Gallery 111, music studios, an expanded art studio and the newly renovated Performance Hall. The new facility boasts a 23,600-square-foot gymnastics/cheer facility and three new dance studios. Both of these buildings exemplify the passionate support the Guild has enjoyed for five decades.
One of the most common comments we hear is “How do you do it all?” The answer is simple — a strong board of directors and trustees, a committed and determined staff, private and public support, and a raft of passionate volunteers. With this competent foursome, the Guild has become one of the leading arts institutions in the Southeast.
Among the annual and ongoing activities at the Guild there are approximately 20 free public exhibitions a year, some organized by the Guild, and some from museums, established collectors or galleries.
The newly created Robert T. Webb Sculpture Garden further exemplifies the Guild’s commitment to public art, providing a “door-less” gallery available to all 24 hours a day, seven days a week, something we believe to be a totally unique and original concept within the state of Georgia.
The Guild also offers the area’s only festival of fine arts and fine crafts. The 49-year-old annual two-day event brings more than 80 regional artists to Dalton, where a variety of fine decorative and functional arts are showcased. The event includes musical and dance performances and a storytelling place with special “hands-on” activities for children. With more than 7,000 people in attendance, the festival is a highlight of the Guild’s year.
The Guild provides individual, for-fee instruction in instrumental and vocal music; group lessons in dance (ballet, modern, jazz, hip-hop and tap); gymnastics and cheerleading; visual arts (painting, drawing and pottery); and theater.
Our music department manages and produces the monthly “In Concert” performance series and Spigel Summer Concert Series evenings to provide local and regional musicians with venues to hone their performing skills in addition to developing audiences for a variety of musical styles including folk, jazz, bluegrass, classical and rock.
The Guild’s ballet company, Ballet Dalton, and dance department continue to offer multiple recitals for the community, most notably the beloved Hans Christian Andersen ballet “The Snow Queen” performed annually during the holiday season.
The Guild serves Dalton Public Schools, Whitfield County Schools and Murray County Schools through a multidistrict Student Arts Expo, with entries available to public, private and home schooled students. The expo is held in the Guild’s main gallery and performance hall for all age levels, as well as high school IB (international baccalaureate) Student Exhibit/Exams over a five-week period, drawing an audience of approximately 5,000.
The Guild partners with the O.N. Jonas Artist-In-School Program that provides artist residencies throughout the school year in the three area school districts, the Elbert Shaw Regional Youth Detention Center, Cross Roads, Morris Innovative and North Star alternative schools, Boys and Girls Clubs and Cross Plains Community Partners. Two annual field trip performances are facilitated at Dalton’s historic Wink Theatre for students from the entire northwest Georgia region to experience.
As the primary artistic and cultural organization in its region, the Guild, in alliance with the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce and Dalton State College, has been charged with leading and implementing the arts and cultural component for our region of the state. In co-operation with the city of Dalton, the Guild provides technical assistance for city-sponsored activities.
The Guild not only celebrates its rich past but enthusiastically embraces the future to ensure that young children will be sitting where we are in 50 years, celebrating the Guild’s contributions to the enrichment of their lives. The Guild’s history is vital and inspiring; it is a living history — an evolving history — and we are charged with ensuring that the story continues in a positive and meaningful direction.
The Guild’s mission is to cultivate and sustain a supportive and nurturing environment for the arts in northwest Georgia through education and outreach; to create new audiences for the arts; to support established artists and nurture emerging ones; and to provide area residents with opportunities for enriching creative and cultural experiences.
Our past is important and helps to remind us of the solidity, the stability and creativity of the extraordinary men and women who came before us and the necessity to continue their work to ensure the arts remain a vital part of our community for the future.