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Cookeville’s Steve Gwilt Reflects On Arts Community Unique To Upper Cumberland

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Cookeville’s Steve Gwilt Reflects On Arts Community Unique To Upper Cumberland

Test 5

Steve Gwilt, a long-time proponent of the arts in Cookeville has stepped down as cultural arts coordinator.

Gwilt said he made his way to Cookeville in 1982 and was surprised to find a place like the Cookeville Dramatic Arts Center. Gwilt said that at the time he did not anticipate finding an art community like the one here when he moved to the small town.

He said over the years he went from being a performer and director, to taking part in growing opportunities for future artists.

“During the time that I have been the cultural arts coordinator, I’ve been able to watch Dogwood Park develop,” Gwilt said. “Years ago that was basically an empty lot full of stores. Well, there was one business that ran there for a while. The city decided to go ahead and wisely purchase that land and turn it into Dogwood Park and then also create a Dogwood Performance Pavilion. Where Shakespeare in the Park and several concerts go on all through the year.”

Gwilt said that not every city the size of Cookeville has these types of artistic outlets. He said Cookeville had a specialty in giving opportunities to artists like him over the decades and that has been a constant up to his retirement.

“This area seems to be somewhat of a vortex for creative people,” Gwilt said. “Over my time I have met a lot of people that have come here for various reasons, a lot of them through the university and some of its branches. But a lot of people that come here and end up staying here because they find that it is a welcoming environment for arts of all kinds. Visual arts and the musical arts and theater arts and so on. It’s an environment that allows people to be somewhat expressive and creative.”

Gwilt said that during his retirement he plans to do the usual things like traveling and meeting new people. However, the grip Cookeville’s art scene has on him has not quite loosened up to this point.

“I will still be involved in some of the theatrical endeavors,” Gwilt said. “I probably will direct some shows down the road, maybe if I get ambitious enough, maybe I’ll even take on a role again. Even though I said I thought my acting career was going to be over.”

For more than two decades Gwilt served in his cultural arts coordinator role, staying involved in things like Cookeville’s Children’s Theatre and directing CPAC’s first Backstage Series play. Gwilt said that no matter where the next act of life takes him, there is no arts community quite like Cookeville.


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