Swamp Gravy was first performed in the Miller County Elementary School auditorium. It was planned for one weekend, and then the first weekend went so well, a second performance was set for the next weekend. After that it was history. We began looking for a larger location where the play could be held, and a local man offered to loan us the old cotton gin to house our performance. After cleaning and some preparation work, we held the first performance here in 1994. Since then the cotton gin has been completely renovated and is now aptly known as Cotton Hall. The once dirt floor is now brick and cement, the loading dock and old Ford truck are now part of our staging. We now have a fully equipped facility that maintains its rustic flavor. We offer state-of-the-art lighting, wonderful set design, and multi-level staging. The design of the theatre is very unique and makes every seat in Cotton Hall a good one. Upon entrance into Cotton Hall, you will find the Museum of Southern Cultures. We also have a concession area that is designed to be suggestive of a café that was once on the town square.
In 1996 we were chosen as a Cultural Olympiad Event and performed at the Centennial Park during the Olympics in Atlanta, Ga. That same year we were picked to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., but no performances can compare to the effect that Swamp Gravy has in its “home” at Cotton Hall.
June– Colquitt/Miller Arts Council (CMAC) is formed.
June– Richard Geer makes his first trip to Colquitt and meets with various community leaders. Dot Wainright names the project Swamp Gravy.
January– Georgia Humanities Council funds an oral history gathering workshop. Oral history gathering begins all over the county under the guidance of Chairperson, Sara Ann Keaton..
August — Swamp Gravy sponsors a “Star Search” to unearth hidden talent. Don and Kay Chandler chair this event.
September– Jo Carson and Richard Geer arrive in Colquitt. Jo finalizes the play while Richard casts and rehearses it.
October– Swamp Gravy Sketches opens to a “sold out” crowd at the Miller County Elementary School.
November–Sketches is performed over the Thanksgiving weekend to sold-out crowds. A representative of Seven Stages Theater and the Cultural Olympiad attends one of these performances.
Swamp Gravy tours the state to promote our 1994 performance..
January– Swamp Gravy receives 1994 Cultural Olympiad Award in Atlanta. Cotton Hall is borrowed from Lavon Hall and Don Chandler along the Georgia Department of Corrections provide prison labor to clean out Cotton Hall and to build stages, sets, etc.
March-– After three years of preparation, Swamp Gravy opens its major performance, Swamp Gravy: The Blue Doctor inside Cotton Hall. The Georgia Legislature, led by Rep. Cathy Cox, name Swamp Gravy “Georgia’s Official
Folk Life Play.”
July– Cotton Hall is purchased for Swamp Gravy with a generous donation from Newton Allen.
September– Carey Collie, high school students and volunteers paint the silhouettes on Cotton Hall.
October– Cotton Hall is dedicated to the memory of Alma and Daniel Allen. Film crews come to Colquitt to film Swamp Gravy for a video shown during the 1996 Olympics.
January– Swamp Gravy receives its second Cultural Olympiad Award in Atlanta.
March– Swamp Gravy premieres The Gospel Truth, a play centered around a fiery Baptist preacher whose life had been shaped by fire.
May–The Woodruff Foundation awards CMAC a $75,000 grant igniting a capital campaign drive to renovate Cotton Hall into Southwest Georgi’a?s Landmark Theater and Museum.
August-– Swamp Gravy is performed at the Governor’s Mansion at the invitation of Governor and Mrs. Zell Miller.
JFebruary– Swamp Gravy is invited to perform at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, by the National Association of Partners in Education.
July-August–Swamp Gravy performs in Colquitt and Atlanta’s Centennial Park.
August–President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter attended a
October– Miller Brewing contributes $30,000 towards the Kennedy Center performance.
November– ” Swamp Gravy performs at The Kennedy Center.
October–Our fifth anniversary is celebrated with a special fall season show saluting past performances.
CMAC is awarded The Artists and Communities grant for Georgia by The Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation. Local leaders decide on the Millennium Mural Project in which 10 murals will be painted in and around Colquitt.
Swamp Gravy Institute begins with a weeklong training session held in Colquitt. Two other sessions are held in November and December. Consultants newly trained conduct workshops in Georgia, Ohio and Colorado.
Colquitt and begins preliminary work with the community on the first mural.
2000 – 2002
The Mural Project continues with the completion of three murals: The Peace Wall, Neighbors, and We’ve Got A Story To Tell. The New Life Learning Center opens in January 2000. The first annual Swamp Gravy Storytelling Festival is held in September 2000.
Market On The Square featuring arts, crafts, antiques, and other fine things
Colquitt, Georgia ranks the #2 Small Town To Visit by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Second Annual Swamp Gravy Storytelling Festival is held in September 2001.
The 3rd Annual Swamp Gravy Storytelling Festival is held in August 2002.
Millennium Mural Project had its tenth mural completed with a collaborative project with the children of the New Life Learning Center. “Summer in the Swamp” was completed in March of 2005.
Millennium Mural Project The 11th mural was completed in the Spring of 2006. “Nuthin’ But A Will” features stories from the Colquitt Miller County Volunteer Fire Department. Governor Sonny Purdue signed the state bill which established Colquitt as “Georgia’s First Mural City” on May 9th, 2006.
May-Haw, Colquitt’s own Variety Show was added to the Cotton Hall schedule.
The 1st Annual Building Creative Communities Conference was held in May of 2007.
Will Murdock directed the first CMAC Youth Theater production, Peter Pan, in June.
Local artist Jimmy Phillips completed “Remember When,” a tribute to his family. With his permission, the mural is included as part of the Millennium Mural Project as the 12th mural.
2008 – 2011
These years were busy for the Millennium Mural Project, with the completion of “Gospel Of The Rock,” “Down at the Depot,” and the giant, 100 ft high “Agricultural Icon Mural.” Colquitt also hosted the Global Mural Conference in October of 2010.
New Life Learning Center was renovated, and became a licensed day care facility. The “Little Einsteins” preschool program began, offering arts-based education to 2-4 year olds.
Swamp Gravy celebrated 20 years of storytelling, and featured a brand new play written by local talent Will Murdock.
One thought on “History”
I visited Colquitt and Swamp Gravy around 1995. Thanks for your hospitality…beyond belief! But believable was your storytelling, genuine, real, full of all of you. Being there before you’d ever have a website..I read about you in TIME magazine, made a phone call and there we were! Extraordinary public history, reuse of a cotton warehouse and the best personal and family stories ever. I hope all is well, can see by the website you’ve well succeeded into this new century. I hope to visit again. Thank you so much.
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