Photo Caption: Gallery Sign at original Gallery location
History of the Wiregrass Art Gallery Cooperative
BY: LAUREN HAMILTON
In the fall of 2011, Marty Haythorn and some artist friends decided to have a temporary two-day exhibit during Victorian Christmas. Finding a vacant storefront in downtown Thomasville on Broad Street, Haythorn contacted and joined twenty-four artists to pitch in to rent the storefront to exhibit their original artwork.
The exhibit was an instant success, and the storefront remained open throughout the rest of December. Riding off the success of the gallery’s opening, Marty Haythorn and the others decided to establish a cooperative and permanent gallery, Wiregrass Art Gallery.
Since the gallery's establishment in 2011, Wiregrass has thrived. Home to twenty-eight gallery members, several of Wiregrass Art Gallery’s members have received awards and sold their work in national and international competitions and galleries. Several other members have been featured artists in regional magazines, and even two of them have exhibited their work in the White House.
The gallery displays a variety of artwork, both two-dimensional and three-dimensional, and has included everything from paintings, prints, photography, woodworking, fused, blown, and stained glass, jewelry, pottery, fractals, furniture, wood burning, sculpture, Southeastern Native American artifact reproductions, greeting cards, gourd art, weaving, quilts, and gift items all from gallery members living in a fifty-mile radius.
Although Wiregrass has not been the first private art gallery to open in Thomasville, it has been the only gallery to survive. After the recent celebration of their eleventh year, which they have open to the public in December of 2022, Wiregrass Art Gallery has been celebrated within the Thomasville community by organizing art demonstrations along Jackson and Broad Street and was the first to place artwork in other businesses.
While Wiregrass has attracted many people to its storefront and generated growth and opportunities in downtown Thomasville, the gallery also works to provide opportunities within. In the fall of 2021, Wiregrass Gallery initiated a Visiting Artists Exhibit, which allowed non-members to exhibit their work in the gallery for two months. The gallery also initiated an Emerging Student Artist Exhibit in partnership with Thomas University’s Pre-College program, allowing middle and high school students to exhibit their artwork for two months, with one hundred percent of the proceeds going directly toward the student artist.
Additionally, Wiregrass Art Gallery conducts fundraisers for local non-profits in the area, such as Hands-On Thomas County, which coordinates community volunteer activities, and with other partnerships with the Jack Hadley Black History Museum, The Alzheimer’s Association, Kicking Cancer which supports women with breast cancer and their families, and a couple of organizations that provide relief for Ukrainian refugees. In May, the gallery will conduct a fundraiser for the Halcyon House, which supports and protects women and their children who have been abuse victims.
As the cooperative venture continues providing a forum for local artists and the community, Wiregrass Art Gallery has quickly become a Thomasville milestone allowing for new opportunities and growth for all involved.