By Crystal McGough
PINSON – International recording artist, “Alabama Blues Queen” and Pinson resident DieDra Ruff has been in talks with Pinson Mayor Joe Cochran and the Pinson City Council for months concerning the establishment of a Pinson Valley Arts Council, a nonprofit organization in the heart of Pinson to encourage, support and help develop artistic talents and events in the city.
On Friday, Sept. 2, the Pinson Valley Arts Council founding members, along with the Clay-Pinson Chamber of Commerce and the mayor and city council of Pinson, held a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially launch the PVAC.
“The ribbon cutting went really well.” Ruff said. “We had a lady from the area with her art set up on display. We had another lady with her handmade earrings that she made – beautiful!”
Members of the PVAC include Ruff and her husband Keithen, Dawn Tanner, Reeshawna Caddell and Pamela Brown.
After the ribbon cutting, those present were invited inside the PVAC office for refreshments and to observe the many stations already set up to benefit the community. In one area were musical instruments while in other areas there were art and craft displays. There was even an area with recording cameras and screens where aspiring artists will be able to record music videos and TikToks.
“Our goal here in the area is to allow people to be able to pursue their dreams,” Ruff said. “A lot of people have dreamed of being a singer, dreamed of learning how to draw and (do) art and paint; a lot of people have thought of maybe interacting with someone else – like adults with disabilities interacting and making friends with other adults with disabilities and just having fun. We want to create those types of environments where they can come.”
The first event the Pinson Valley Art Council has on its calendar is a dance for disabled and elderly adults, which will take place Oct. 8.
“We’ll have music and they will be able to just have a good time,” Ruff said. “In the world of an adult with disabilities, there’s not a whole lot for them to do … this will be their night where they can let their hair down and they can just dance and have a good time and feel comfortable being themselves.”
Ruff said she also plans for the PVAC to host “First Friday” events, open to the community, where there will be live performances from a variety of music artists, as well as poetry readings.
“We will have everything from jazz to poetry, blues to R&B,” she said. “We want to have a night where people can come out, pop their lawn chairs up, sit back and watch some live entertainment.”
The Pinson Valley Art Council is also considering broadening its reach in order to assist the Jefferson County School District with in-school music programs.
“They want us to help them in whatever way,” Ruff said. “Our thought is to bring the music to the schools, set up as an assembly, and just allow the children to come up on the stage. If they want to play the guitar, let them handle the guitar, see what it feels like, see what it does. (Same with) the bass, the drums – and come and sing with me.”
Ruff said she and her husband Keithen did a similar in-school music program, called Blues in School, in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and they want to bring that experience home.
“Those children and the teacher loved it,” she said. “If we can go that far and teach (music), certainly we can do that right here where we live. That’s what we want to do.”
As a nonprofit organization, a large part of the Pinson Valley Arts Council will be to provide low cost music lessons to those in the community who desire to learn but cannot afford the usual high cost of lessons. Additionally, Ruff said that the council will accept donations to help fund these lessons and other services the art council wishes to provide to the community.
“The more donations we get in, the more we can give back to the city,” she said. “That’s the whole point of setting it up. We want to make sure that we have something for everybody. For the children, for the disabled adults, for the elderly, and for just Joe Blow who always wanted to sing or (play an instrument).
Donations can be made at the office via cash or checks made out to Pinson Valley Arts Council. The PVAC office hours will be Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., unless there is a special event that otherwise interferes.