TIFTON-Syd Blackmarr, founder of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College’s arts series and a recognized statewide champion of the arts, passed away Tuesday.
Blackmarr promoted the arts in Tift County for nearly 50 years, beginning in 1976 when she founded the Arts Experiment Station at ABAC. Its mission was to study what arts opportunities were available in South Georgia. She was retained by Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College to create an arts series to increase those opportunities. That effort, which later became known as the ABAC Arts Connection, is about to kick off the 2023-2024 season of concerts, plays, and lectures.
“Syd Blackmarr inspired so many through her passion for the arts,” said ABAC President Tracy Brundage. “She will certainly be missed but her legacy will continue to have an impact here at ABAC and far beyond. She made our community a more beautiful place.”
Wayne Jones, director of the Arts Connection, said that Blackmarr’s true impact on Tifton and all of South Georgia cannot be accurately measured.
“Her accomplishments are too broad to name,” Jones said. “She was a huge driving force in the establishment of the arts in South Georgia, and really statewide. She brought so many different things to our area for many years, including arts in education performances, taking arts into schools, and she was instrumental in establishing the arts in many of the surrounding counties and communities.”
Nicknamed Tifton’s “Queen of Arts”, Blackmarr was a leading force in creating the Love Affair fine arts festival, one of Georgia’s premiere fine arts festivals which ran from 1983 until 2014. Jones said that idea started in 1980 to expose children to the arts and included live demonstrations so that children could see art being created. That evolved into the Love Affair, which Jones said had a huge impact for the area.
Blackmarr founded the Arts and Entertainment Series during her time at the Arts Experiment Station, which brought live performances to Tifton and at least eight surrounding counties, according to Jones.
“She brought people together continually to create an atmosphere the arts could thrive in,” Jones said. “The formation of that multi-county cooperative was one of the most unique things she did. And as a result, so many of those communities have grown and have their own arts programs now.”
Jones said that late in her career, Blackmarr helped save the old First Methodist Church on Love Avenue and turn it into what is now home of the Tifton Council for the Arts. That building was renamed the Syd Blackmarr Arts Center in 2022 to honor her tireless dedication to the arts. The Tifton Council for the Arts continues her vision of making the arts accessible to everyone.
“She was a huge mentor for me over the last seven years,” said Joy Yost, executive director of the Tifton Council for the Arts. “She guided me and helped me understand the impact the arts have on lives, how they improve the quality of life for everyone in our small town.”
Yost said that the arts was Blackmarr’s heart and soul, and that she is thankful that Blackmarr instilled in her a vision for what the arts could be in the community.
“She was just asking me this past weekend about attending our long-range planning meeting,” Yost said. “She attended every event and exhibition we held, even if she couldn’t be there when the crowds were there. She was in it until the very end.”