Staying Connected Through Collaboration

The Smithsonian traveling exhibition Crossroads: Change in Rural America explored how rural communities changed dramatically in the twentieth century. Although the majority of the U.S. landscape is rural, the percentage of Americans living in rural areas fell from 60 to 17 percent. The exhibition and accompanying programs prompted discussions about local history, how societal changes have impacted communities, and what Georgia’s future might look like.

In 2020 Cuthbert, Summerville, and Blue Ridge hosted Crossroads. (The exhibition made earlier stops in Thomaston, McRae-Helena, and Monticello). Closures due to COVID-19 affected the planned programming in Summerville and Blue Ridge. Despite restrictions on public gatherings due to the pandemic, the traveling exhibition remained successful because of vast community support.

“Persistence was key,” said Nichole Potzauf, executive director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Association (also a 2020 recipient of the Governor’s Award for the Arts and Humanities). “Our community rallied for this exhibit, especially with rural communities being represented. Appalachian culture in our North Georgia region is important
for us to share.”

Crossroads was presented in Georgia by Georgia Humanities, the Center for Public History at the University of West Georgia, and Georgia EMC. The exhibition is part of Museum on Main Street, a partnership with the Smithsonian Institution that provides small and rural communities access to Smithsonian traveling exhibitions. GH

Additional support for “Crossroads” has been provided by the Georgia Council for the Arts, the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Georgia Farm Bureau, Emory University’s Stuart A. Rose Library, and the USDA Rural Development Georgia State Office.

NHD Georgia students Mary McCoy and Eva Cheraisi of Columbus High School
NHD Georgia students Mary McCoy and Eva Cheraisi of Columbus High School

Life will return to normal, but it will be a new normal…. When we reflect on our earlier crossroad events and analyze the change we are living in today, we become aware of what future crossroads might bring, allowing our community to shape its destiny.”

— From “Crossroads: Change in Tri-State Appalachia, a video produced by students of the Fannin County High School Media Department; script by Isaac Brooks