A longtime Yadkin County educator and member of the arts community in Elkin passed away Jan. 19. Gladys Cundiff Morrison was born in the late 1920s in Boonville. Morrison’s father, E.L. Cundiff, was involved in the establishment of the Yadkin High School, a high school for black students in the area.
Morrison became a teacher, herself. She studied at Barber-Scotia College and returned to teach at Yadkin High School. She continued her studies in education, taking classes during the summer.
In addition to her career as an educator, Morrison and her husband Cliff, a well-known folk artist, were charter members of the Foothills Arts Council in Elkin.
Anne Gulley met the Morrisons when she first moved to Elkin and the couple was involved with the Elkin League of Artists.
“The two of them kind of took on the community and became an essential part of the community. They did so many different things,” Gulley said. The arts council was in its early stages at the time with no physical location so the Morrisons organized art shows in the lobbies of area banks, Gulley explained.
“Once the arts council had a home on Church Street, Gladys continued that dedication to the arts and the community,” Gulley said.
When her husband passed away in 1987, Morrison organized an annual community art competition in his honor. The Cliff Morrison Art Show, which celebrated its 27th anniversary last year, features local artists’ work in categories including painting, sculpture, pottery, photography and more.
Former arts council director Leighanne Martin Wright produced a mini-documentary on Morrison’s life as part of a history project while obtaining a degree from Salem College.
“Gladys was gracious enough to give me family photos and let me interview her about her life through segregated years and after the Civil Rights movement,” Wright said.
A special presentation of the video took place in 2012 at the arts council with Morrison present. Gulley said there are plans in the works to show the video in the coming months to honor Morrison’s life.
“It’s just so hard to describe her. She was just a force of nature. There will never be another Gladys Morrison, ever,” Gulley said.
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter and Instagram @RippleReporterK.