Twelve artists reveal their handiwork at 12-String Strut party
By Caitlin Boland

Margie Holton (back) and Jane Wilkerson check out the guitars by Renee Starnes and Grady Moss.
A packed house at the Thomson Depot witnessed the unveiling of 12 Stella guitars on March 18.
The reveal party featured the artwork of 12 local artists, each painting a seven-foot tall polyurethane replica of a 12-string Stella guitar, much like the one Blind Willie McTell played in his career.
Steve James, a renowned musician known for his expertise in the blues style played by Blind Willie McTell, performed at the reveal party. James has performed before in Thomson at the Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival and New Harmonies, the Smithsonian exhibit that was housed at the McDuffie Museum.
“This process started two and a half years ago with us trying to find new ways to promote the community,” said Elizabeth Vance, director of the Thomson-McDuffie Visitors Center. “We decided to have the guitars as a public art display to give a daily reminder of Blind Willie.”
The visitors center initiated the project after the Georgia Department of Economic Development presented a Tourism Product Development Report to the officials and citizens of Thomson and McDuffie County.
“This project will educate visitors and locals about the life of Georgia musician, Blind Willie McTell, through visuals and audio,” a press release about the event on pressreleasejet.com said. “It also supports the annual music festival held in his honor, the Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival, which is in its 23rd year and coincides with the GDEcD’s Year of Georgia Music which will use Georgia’s musical heritage, music superstars and iconic music venues to promote tourism in the Peach State during 2016.”
With the idea for a public art project floating around, Bob and Kelly Flanders helped establish the idea for the guitars. Vance said the couple built the first three prototype guitars out of wood two years ago, but the guitars needed to be more permanent.
The company Icon Poly, a 3-D fabricator, located in Gibbon, Nebraska, built the polyurethane replica guitars, and 12 artists were recruited to create the unique designs for each guitar.
The artists include: Gemma and Nora Bernard, Tanna Blankenship, Adrienne Murphy, Maureen Smith, Melanie Stokes, Grady Moss, Tish Chase, Toni Starnes, Bodie Cummings, Kenya Calhoun, Isabel Vasquez and Morgan Hillman.
The guitars will be installed in several places around the Downtown/Main Street area of Thomson, and the downtown displays will include an audio box, playing samples of McTell’s music as well as telling his story. Some locations include MAC on Main, Suntrust Bank and State Bank.
The display is intended to last three years.
The final list of guitars with titles and locations is: 
•Gemma and Nora Bernard - “Belle Meade Strut” located at the Historic Courthouse.
•Tanna Blankenship - William Bartram “Wildflowers of McDuffie County” located at State Bank.
•Kenya Calhoun - “Travelin’ Blues” located at Dozier Group.
•Tish Chase - “Three Women Blues,” located at Farmers State Bank,
•Bodie Cummings - “Georgia on My Mind,” located at Aunt Tique and Uncle Junk.
• Morgan Hillman - “First Night,” located at Dearing City Hall.
•Adrienne Murphy - “Braille Blues,” located at MAC on Main.
•Maureen Smith - “Remembering Blind Willie,” located at McDonald’s.
•Renee Starnes - “Blue Strings,” located at Thomson Depot.
•Melanie Stokes - “Camellia City Blues,” located at Coldwell Banker Watson & Knox.
•Isabel Vasquez - Leonid Afrenov’s “Night Alley on Guitar,” located at Suntrust Bank.
Three other wooden guitars will be painted and displayed indoors. These guitars are:
• Tish Chase - “McDuffie Collage,” located at the McDuffie Museum.
• Bob and Kelly Flanders - Picasso - “Girl Before a Mirror,” located at White Columns Inn.
•Melanie Stokes - Mondrian “Broadway Boogie Woogie.” located at Sunset Finance.
{Editor’s note: The print version of this story in this week’s McDuffie Progress wrongly used the name McNeely instead of McTell. Our staff regrets the error and we strive to support the annual festival and related events. We apologize for the error and have pinpointed the cause of the error and corrected.}





McDuffie Progress




McDuffie Progress

McDuffie Progress





McDuffie Progress