Tryon African-American community fights poverty with handmade doll project

Published 5:19 pm Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Using these materials, they are creating unique African-American southern vernacular dolls. Invigorated by early sales, the Doll Maker corps continues to work, finding the children readily joining in during meaningful family time centered around the making of the dolls.

The whole family contributes to the naming and writing of a short story about each doll.

&dquo;I think there is something going on here that is very good,&dquo; said Atlanta photographer and art collector, Lucinda W. Bunnen (who is exhibiting her work in the Upstairs Artspace&squo;s 30th Anniversary show.) Bunnen purchased 10 dolls for her grandchildren and, while photographing a family, ordered 10 more.

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&dquo;Mrs. Lucinda, she was a big help&dquo; said Andea Miller, one of the Registered Tryon Doll Makers. &dquo;I&squo;m still making the dolls and people are buying them.&dquo; &bsp;

The new community entrepreneurial venture is planning to grow far beyond the holidays. Through the Tryon Doll Makers Corps (which works to expose others in the neighborhood to the importance of hands-on creative activity), a portion of all proceeds from the sale of Registered Tryon Dolls is reinvested in Tryon&squo;s historic African-American community through programs that help fight poverty and help build a sustainable future.

The Tryon Doll Makers have received business assistance and&bsp;&bsp; encouragement from Mountain BIZWorks and the Small Business Center at Isothermal Community College. These organizations are developing a series of Kitchen Table-top Seminars to take to the Doll Makers and others interested in cottage industry business development. Kitchen Table-top Seminars bring the most basic business assistance and community coaching into neighborhoods that need it the most.

In a related project, The High Road Neighborhood Garden Project is working to create community gardens in Tryon&squo;s historic African-American community by reinvesting in the community and creating jobs. This community-based project continues the Tryon Doll Maker&bsp; Corps&squo; commitment to helping their community through recycling and returning the benefits to the whole neighborhood ‐ in this case, in the form of fresh vegetables.

Locally-made African-American vernacular garden ornaments will be for sale directly from the garden with proceeds going to sustaining the project and growing new ventures in the neighborhood that repeatedly strike blows at poverty and address issues of early childhood development.

Registered Tryon Dolls will be available through Dec. 24 at the Red Clover Gallery in Landrum.

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