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A Town Where Imagination Thrives

Our Town Founder, Dawn McGriff, has supported the creation, exploration and performance of art at Gorham's Bluff since its inception. Her commitment has manifested itself in a wide range of programming such as the Alabama Ballet's Summer Residency, the Gerhart Chamber Musical Festival, the Storytelling Festival, Jazz on the Bluff, and the Summer Theater Festival. During our Town Re-Visioning Charrette in June 2001, we rededicated ourselves to this aim, but broadened our arts mission by establishing the specific goal of becoming the ideal venue for discovery, exploration and creativity. This meant two things for the Town. First, we increased the number of places within the Town Plan that will be built specifically for the arts. Second, and more importantly, we seek to incorporate creativity into every aspect of the community (not simply as it relates directly to the arts).

Places for Creation. Our new Town Plan accommodates a far greater number of places where the arts can be practiced, performed or learned, some of which include the following:
  • We reserved the most important site in the Town, the crest of the downtown green, for a 750-seat outdoor performance pavilion.

  • The 1938 Pisgah School will be converted into a cultural education center for people of all ages.

  • We added a black box theater to the Residential Arts Quadrangle.
  • We envisioned that the small overlook pavilions (that terminate the view of each street) will include features, such as a music stand or easel, to bring the practicing artist outdoors. These pavilions will blend in with the natural environment.

  • West Lake will become a "singing lake" when a small band shell on its bank directs music across the water.

  • We incorporated a large number of live/work units expecting the need for a number of small gallery spaces. We also provided for varied housing types that we hope will be conducive to attract resident artists, performers and arts patrons.
Creativity Everywhere. To create an environment that celebrates and nourishes our thirst for discovery, exploration, and creativity, we are focusing our energies on two concepts: (1) process; and (2) people.

Process. The emphasis on process means that no matter what we are doing---whether it is the way we build a tree house for the kids, the way we design tennis courts, or the way we fold napkins at the Lodge---the first question that we will ask ourselves is how can we accomplish the task at hand in a more artful and imaginative way. Our first opportunity to apply this new level of discipline was in the design and construction of the tree house in Shepard Park. When the Gorham's Bluff children designed the tree house with architects Jeff Dungan and Louis Nequette, one of the questions asked of the children was how to incorporate the arts into the design of the tree house. Later, the resulting design was given to students at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, and they created storyboards of how to incorporate the arts into the tree house.

People. We broadened our arts mission for many reasons, but the most important was our desire to foster the creation of a community that naturally attracts people who can express their own creativity or enjoy the creativity of others. We want to create an ideal setting for people who enjoy asking why and how, and who use this intellectual curiosity to improve the world around them. In short, we want to fill our town canvas with a diverse, energetic population of interesting and interested individuals.
A Year-Round Chautauqua. After our charrette, we extensively researched existing small towns across North America in hopes of finding a role model. Our research ultimately led us to Chautauqua ( This 125-year-old community in upstate New York nourishes the mind, spirit and body during an intensive nine-week summer season. During a typical day at Chautauqua, you can attend a lecture, participate in a discussion with a noted author, learn to hand-tint photographs, go sailing, and depending on the day of the week, see a play, experience the Opera, or listen to the Symphony in an evening performance.

Our hope for Gorham's Bluff is that we can capture the special atmosphere of Chautauqua, but enjoy it on a year-round basis. We believe a number of advantages contribute to our ability to realize this dream:
  • Our landscape with its far-reaching view of the Tennessee River Valley is inspiring, and while we enjoy four distinct seasons, our winters are mild and short-lived.

  • As we are in the town's infancy, we can design our town to celebrate creative spirits from the ground up.

  • We can build our town to such a high standard of visual splendor that it will, in itself, be considered a work of art. It was this realization that led us to the creation of The Architects Guild, an organization of extraordinarily talented architects who will guide the design of the Town.
Ultimately, we see these inherent advantages as the key to placing the term "Gorham's Bluff" into our country's cultural lexicon. In the same way that the names "Santa Fe," or "Nantucket" immediately bring specific images into our minds, we hope that "Gorham's Bluff" does the same, but with the image of a beautiful place where creative energy thrives.