Mercer to Celebrate Grand Opening of McEachern Art Center in Downtown Macon

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McEachern Art Center

MACON – Mercer’s Art Department will celebrate the grand opening of the McEachern Art Center, the new home of the University’s art gallery and student studios, Jan. 31 and Feb 1, at 332 Second Street.

The historic location in downtown Macon features a completely renovated gallery space at street level with studios and classroom space on the second floor.

The McEachern Art Center’s opening exhibition, titled “Foundations,” will celebrate the longstanding department’s expansion off campus with works by alumni as well as former and current faculty. Faculty contributors include Marshall Daugherty, Sam Hutto, Roger Jamison, Beth Stewart, Gary Blackburn, Craig Coleman, Eric O’Dell, Luke Buffenmyer and Ben Dunn.

Festivities will begin with an invitation-only dedication ceremony co-hosted by the Historic Macon Foundation on Jan. 31 at 7 p.m.

The public is invited to visit the McEachern Art Center and view the “Foundations” exhibition on Feb. 1, beginning at 6 p.m., as part of downtown Macon’s First Friday festivities. Live music will be performed by Mercer faculty and students.

The Art Department’s mission for the new Center is “to create a place in our community where all are welcome to contemplate art with care.”

The Griffith Family Foundation of Macon made the lead gift to name the McEachern Art Center for a family that has had a significant influence on Georgia history.

John N. McEachern Sr. founded the Life of Georgia Insurance Company, a firm focused on insurance for the less fortunate. Following his death, his wife, Lula Dobbs McEachern, ran the company and served as chair of the board. She was later inducted into the Georgia Women of Achievement.

Their son, John Jr., also worked for the company and later served as chairman of the board, while grandson John III never worked for company but went into the Air Force as a test pilot. His first cousin, Rankin M. Smith, stayed with the company and served as chairman of the board until the company was sold.

Teresa McEachern, daughter of John and Evagene Gardner McEachern III, moved to Macon in 1969, where she met and later married Benjamin “Benjy” Griffith in 1972. Benjy and Teresa both attended and graduated from Mercer in 1977. Teresa was an art major, and Benjy majored in literature. The Griffiths’ four children, Wesley Austin Griffith, Casey Griffith Connally, Travis Bankston Griffith and Jessica Griffith Hale, all reside in Macon and are actively involved in the Griffith Family Foundation.

The Art Department in Mercer’s College of Liberal Arts was founded in 1946 with Daugherty and Tony Stansfeld teaching in studios set up on the third floor of Willingham Hall. The department later relocated to Hardman Hall, the University’s former main library, where it has been housed for more than 50 years.

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Kyle Sears