As summer plans for the arts continue, business as usual is better than usual. A surprise element introduced at a recent meeting of the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama seems to have created a new surge of awareness for the foundation’s purpose of philanthropy in our community. And restoration of a Jacksonville church organ this month is cause for celebration.

Mosaic celebrates community

The art of mosaics — pictures made of colored bits of glass, tile or marble — can be traced back to Christian churches of the 4th century. Churches in the eastern part of the Roman Empire often used mosaics to tell familiar stories.

In our area, one piece of sculpture tells multiple stories of people involved with the Community Foundation. The hand-crafted mosaic, designed by Sarah Cavender of Sarah Cavender Metalworks, was unveiled at the foundation’s observance of 100 years of community foundations’ existence across the nation. A gold wire map represents nine counties served by the foundation. Cavender also provided many pieces of metal jewelry — small sculptures as she calls them — crafted over 30 years. Guests at the observance were invited to select a piece that represented their role in the community, or a piece meaningful to them, and add it to the mosaic.

The idea for a mosaic came from Jennifer Maddox, president and CEO of the foundation. While sightseeing in Acapulco, Maddox saw a series of three mosaics by Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. The images remained in her mind and seemed to fit the event.

“I wanted a visual representation of the interests of the citizens that form the foundation and make this community a better place,” she said. “The project has exceeded my expectations.  Sarah took a simple idea and has created something amazing.”

Looking at the collection of wire and mesh stones Cavender contributed is like reading a history of the artist’s life, much of which has been spent in her Oxford shop. Locally, her wares are displayed in her shop and Nunnally’s Custom Framing and Gallery; internationally, she has accounts in museum stores in England and Canada. The most prestigious gallery selling her jewelry is the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Rose Munford brought in a pair of tiny scissors for the event, representing the sewing lessons of the after-school program by Cheaha Creative Arts. A piece in the shape of an anchor was added by friends of Kenneth Vandervoort in honor of his recent graduation from the United States Naval Officer Training Command. Keener Hudson placed the largest stone, a crystal, in the center of the picture to signify the initial donation in 1920 by Susie Parker Stringfellow that would ultimately create the Northeast Alabama foundation.

“Now the mosaic is part of our history. I’m waiting for the moment when we hang it near our office entrance. It will be the first thing visitors see as they come in,” concluded Maddox. “I think it will put a smile on their face.”

Making a joyful noise

To borrow a line from a Southern gospel hymn, “what a day of rejoicing it will be” next Sunday for members of First Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville. After using an electronic organ for the last year while its 61-pipe organ was being restored, the church’s organ, now like new, will be in place and sound forth for a dedication service and concert at 4 p.m. June 20. The organ was first installed at the church in 1972.

The Arthur Schleuter Organ Company of Lithonia, Ga., restored the organ. Jamie McLemore, a concert organist and organist at South Highland Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, has served as consultant.

“The program will be varied,” McLemore said. “I will play some pieces that are associated with weddings: ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’ by Bach, the John Stanley Trumpet Voluntary and an arrangement of ‘Amazing Grace.’ The music of the organ will lead people to a higher plane of worship.”

Church organist Susie Dempsey invites everyone to the dedication and concert. A reception will follow.