TFAC history: Four decades serving the community

Published 3:22 pm Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Soon after the building was completed, a garden at the back of the building was created and dedicated to the memory of Portia Farwell by Arthur Farwell. The Gay Blades (now Green Blades) Garden Club undertook a four-year beautification project, anchoring building to ground by the planting and maintenance of shrubs, magnolia trees, azaleas and various ground covers.

During the 1970s the only participation by the youth of the county was the summer musical, the first being &dquo;Li&squo;l Abner,&dquo; put on by the Tryon Youth Center in July of 1970. Over the years these musicals, now produced under the direction of Tryon Little Theater, have given great enjoyment to young and old alike and have acquainted many people with the TFAC facilities.

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Starting in the 1980s more emphasis was placed on bringing children to the center. In 1981 the Summer Art Series for Youth (SASY) began under the sponsorship of Tryon Painters & Sculptors. This was a program for children. Instead of a summer camp, various classes in art-related activities were offered over a period of several weeks. Funded partly by the N.C. Arts Council and partly by private donations, this program was run by volunteers using the TFAC facilities. This program later became part of The Upstairs Gallery. With changing times and needs, and having served its purposes well, this program was closed in the late 80s.

Promotion of programs for the Tryon and Polk County high school students also evolved throughout the 80s. Through them, the youth of the community were exposed to a wide scope of cultural entertainment, from ballet and symphony to travelogues. Super Saturday, though not a TFAC program, is now in its 23rd year. That fun day consisting of parades, bands, entertainment and theater has brought thousands of young people and their parents to the Tryon Fine Arts Center.

Expansion was the keynote of the 80s, both in facilities and acreage. First to be added was the Binks property adjacent to the center, now known as the Arts Palette, or &dquo;Fred B. Farwell Memorial Annex&dquo; given by his father, Arthur Farwell. The Tryon Painters and Sculptors occupy the street level floor, and the Tryon Crafts formerly used the lower floor for lapidary and pottery.

In 1986, an impressive addition was made with the acquisition of the Terrano property, extending property lines to Walnut Street on the north and the Baptist Church parking lot on the east. There were three houses on this land. The one facing Melrose Avenue was razed and a landscaped garden was created. In May of 1987 the corner was officially dedicated as Sassoon Park, given by Stella Sassoon as a memorial to her husband, William Edward Sassoon. The following year (1988), the first Tryon Fine Arts Center&squo;s Summer Social was held with art exhibitions, music and entertainment offered for the enjoyment of picnickers on the lawn.

May of 1987 marked another first with the exciting opening of one of the other houses, now converted into the Cate-Hall Weaving Cottage, dedicated to Lucy Cate and Grace Hall, who had done so much to promote weaving in this area. The attractive rooms were filled with looms and avid weavers.

In 1988 the last of the three buildings was refurbished on May 1st. The public was welcomed to &dquo;Discovery House,&dquo; dedicated to young people exploring the creative world and &dquo;discovering&dquo; their talents. After five years of successfully fulfilling its mission and seeing bright young children grow, Discovery House closed in 1993.


Following the acquisitions of the 1980s, the 1990s were a time of refurbishing and enhancement. Many stage amenities were added to the auditorium, including improved lighting, rigging and a new sound system. The lobby area was renovated and improvements were made in the spaces utilized by many of the affiliates. Many enhancements were funded by a new auxiliary, the Friends of the Fine Arts Center, established in 1994 and dedicated to helping TFAC through fundraising and other supportive activities. The 90s were also a time of financial review and augmentation. With an eye to the future, funds were established to support future expansion and capital improvements. TFAC has been the beneficiary of many generous supporters whose foresight and vision have secured the financial stability the organization enjoys today.

The Tryon Fine Arts Center is not just a physical location, but a dynamic concept energized by its many affiliated organizations. Although these have changed over the years, as the needs of the community have changed, they are still at the heart of what is meant by TFAC, an institution whose physical structure may change but whose mission remains the same: &dquo;&ellip; to enhance the quality of community life through a broad appreciation and enjoyment of the arts.&dquo;

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