Photos Jason Huynh
If anyone has spent any significant amount of time in Cartersville, Ga. they are bound to notice something unusual about this community.
The arts community is very active in Bartow. The theater community is large and also very active, and there are at least four dance studios open to those who wish to learn the tango. This doesn’t include the arts programs in the middle and high schools. One of the staples in the arts community is the Grand Theatre where many of these programs come together on one stage.
The theatre is located in the heart of Downtown Cartersville. The landmark is difficult to miss and like a second home to many who have worked and performed there. For the last 20 years, this theatre has been a home to the wonderful artist and educator Terri Cox.
Cox works as the Program Director and the head of the education program. In March of this year, Terri Cox will retire and pass the torch. While the people of the Grand are sad to see her go, there are two decades of remarkable achievements to reflect on and a legacy to live up to.
She began her career as a teacher at Cloverleaf Elementary for ten years. When she transitioned into her position at the Grand Theatre, Cox says that she created the position for herself. “The Grand was managed by the Etowah Foundation and they were in charge of the Bartow History Center, what used to be the TRC science center and the Weinman Mineral Museum which later became the Tellus Museum,” Cox says. “They would have educational programs for the schools to participate in. They also managed the Grand Theatre and they didn’t really have an educational component like the other entities did. So, they decided that they wanted to develop a program [at the Grand].”
When she learned of the opportunity from the program director at the time, the late Don Kordecki, Cox realized that she wanted to return to her creative roots and utilize her degree in music education. When the program proved to be different than she imagined, she was given the opportunity to pitch her ideas to the Board at the Etowah Foundation. Cox was successful, and the Community in Bartow has benefited from her influence ever since.
While there is no routine or set schedule for her, she says days are full of planning and executing arts-centered educational experiences for the children in the community. “We work with the Bartow History Museum,” explains Cox. “We have field trip programs and students come from elementary school classrooms to visit us. They spend an hour at the Bartow History Museum and an hour at the Grand. We will take something from the curriculum, and we teach it to the students using drama, music, dancing, instruments, all of the performing arts. We hope that that will meet the needs of many different learning styles of many different children.”
The children who witness this program will never forget their experience at the theatre because it is unique, and they interact with the people in their history books. The program that Cox has created is designed so that each child will get to ask the actors something about their historical character. Cox loves sharing the experience with the students and allowing them to be a star in the theatre for a day. But running this program is not all that Cox has accomplished in her 20 years at the Grand.
Since she started in 1999, she has also been directing the Summer Theatre Camps. The theatre camp followed the Cartersville Opera Company when the need arose for an outlet in the performing arts for younger people. The camp became so popular that it split into a junior and senior level and then when Cox took the lead, they split into three groups: Elementary, Middle, and High school camps. Cox picks the shows and acts a manager for the camps. The stage directors, musical directors, and choreographers are hired and the Grand’s technical director, Stevie Roushdi and her staff handle all the lights, sets and effects. The highly-anticipated camp lasts two weeks and is an excellent challenge for the young artists in the area.
With all the hard work that Terri Cox has put in over the years, retirement is well deserved. She wants more time for herself, but she also says that many of the programs and the people keep her wanting to do more. “Working with these young directors,” she smiles, “like Kimberly Human and Kristy Montgomery, I can see that it is time for a younger person to get involved who is involved with the social media, technology and all of the changes that come with progress. Because of that, I really want someone to take us to the next level and into the future.”
She plans to travel with her husband, Chip Cox, and become more involved with her church and the programs that she was missing due to work. She has always loved to sing in her church choir and can’t wait to be more involved in the ministry. Cox announced that she is also working to publish a book. The book is titled “How to Drive Like a Christian.”
She classifies the book as Christian humor and explores issues that people have while driving and making parallels to “the road of life.”
In other exciting news, she plans to celebrate 37 years with her husband on May 1, 2019. Her daughter Megan recently got married and her son Josh, a two-time cancer survivor, is totally in remission and living his life. She is definitely looking forward to spending more time with them all.
While Cox is retiring, the Grand is not. The theater has a very interesting history. Cox shares that the building was built in 1910. It was a hotel that was converted into a Vaudeville Theatre and then to a motion picture theatre.
However, in 1923 the whole block of buildings burned. They rebuilt the theater the same year and it was operational by 1924. It was a movie theater until 1977 when it was renovated to become a stage theater once again.
In 1988 the theater was purchased by the foundation that owns it today and it was once again renovated. In 2003, they had to refinish the floors and found trenches underneath the building. Cox explained that they put a time capsule in one of the trenches before replacing the floor for the next renovators to find. They also added the concession area and the Encore Room during the recent work to the building.
Now, Terri Cox will be added to the history of the Grand Theatre and her legacy will live on through the evidence in her programs and in the many children she influenced. It is the end of a class act but never the show. Play on!