Art competition, diaries from the ’40s

By Kitsey Burns Harrison -

Joan Martin, circa 1950.

Photo courtesy of Leighanne Martin Wright

It will be another busy art-filled weekend at Foothills Arts Council, located at 129 Church St. in Elkin. The 27th annual Clifford Morrison Memorial Art Competition will hold its gallery reception on Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. Artist Jan Detter graciously served as the judge for the 2D and photography categories. Prize sponsors include Edward Jones Investments, Century 21 Hudspeth Properties, Speedy Chef Restaurant, Basin Creek Realty, and Rhythm on Main’s production of “The Nutcracker” on Dec. 17.

“It is always an honor and pleasure to be in a community that makes a gesture of hospitality to the artists in its midst,” Detter said. “Artists are everywhere. It also help build a stronger community.”

Gladys Morrison started the competition in memory of her late husband who was a self-taught folk artist.

The reception will have wine and refreshments.

A special readers theater performance written by local playwright Leighanne Martin Wright will take place in the garden of the arts council on Sunday at 4 p.m. The production entitled “Boy Crazy in the 40s or Hubba, Hubba!” is a story of a girl coming of age in post-war Maine and a love that could have been — almost was — but never was. The production will star local actors Judy Deck and David Nielsen. Admission is free, guests are asked to bring a lawn chair and coolers are welcome.

The script is based upon Wright’s mother’s diaries and letters she received from several gentlemen from 1945 to 1950.

“I was compelled to share parts of these diaries because as a teen, my mom had quite a flare for writing,” Wright said. “Her language and details give us a glimpse into the life of a teen from the late ’40s and I think it’s fascinating. Plus some of it is just downright hilarious.”

Wright said she was inspired to put the show together following a performance she saw.

“I was fortunate to be asked to see a play in Blowing Rock recently called ‘Waiting for MacArthur,’ a wonderfully written show with letters between a young woman in the service and her mother, friend, and former teacher as the vehicle for the story. It inspired me to look again at these letters and diaries I had found of my mother’s and I wondered if I could put them together in a way to tell a story. You see, my mother was quite flighty and fell in love with every male that crossed her path. I chose particularly funny diary entries and juxtaposed them against letters she received that last year of high school and early college — some showing boys very much like mom. But there is this one guy, Roy, who is so serious and dry, yet uncharacteristically in love with my mom, it boggles my mind. Some of the letters and diary entries are not in their entirety, but all the words are exactly as they are written — except when I couldn’t read the writing (there are a couple of those.) I will also have for display the yearbooks, photos, letters and diaries during the performance.”

Wright said there are photos of the mysterious Roy and he was extremely handsome. She said she asked her mother once about him after finding the letters and her mother’s response was “he liked me.” These stories from her mother are a treasure for Wright and her family as her mother now suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

“These letters and diary entries are great memories. Sadly, what makes Alzheimer’s so pernicious is that many of these great lines no longer inhabit Joan’s mind today. What a loss for her. Luckily for us, she committed them to paper,” said David Nielsen.

Actor Judy Deck said the production is an ode to the lost art of the written word.

“This is a fun production for me, getting to be a high school girl in my head again for a little while,” she said. “It emphasizes the importance of writing for me and the impermanence of electronic communication. What will our grandchildren have to read about our early lives and loves? Will they have our stories to pass on and enrich their lives? Perhaps this will encourage some of us to start keeping journals.”

For more information on upcoming events at Foothills Arts Council, visit

Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.

Joan Martin, circa 1950. Martin, circa 1950. Photo courtesy of Leighanne Martin Wright

By Kitsey Burns Harrison

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