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Shooting the Breeze with Michal Brock

Sharprtop Art Association President Michal Brock talks art, inspiration and pet peeves.


    Sharptop Art Association president Michal Brock. Before taking a leadership role at Jasper’s 40-year-old non-profit Brock worked in marketing and advertising with major shopping malls and as director of special events for Neiman Marcus in the Dallas, Texas area. She also served on the board for the Dallas Special Olympics, organizing an event that raised $250,000 in one night, and later started her own business recruiting physicians for hospitals and private practices.

What brought you to Jasper?
The Pickens Progress, not to be patronizing. My husband and I were looking for a business opportunity to carry us into retirement, something we could manage together without having 9-5 hours.  The first issue of the Pickens Progress I purchased had a small ad, in the classifieds. We called the seller, met within an hour, and before sunset shook hands on a deal. That was December 2004.

Since you took the yoke at Sharptop Art Association what have you identified as the main challenges in the local art community?

Unification is the main challenge at the art community level.  I’ve been told by city leaders that it’s difficult to raise grant money for the arts in Pickens County because pockets of wealth skew the average income into a higher bracket, consequently Sharptop Arts Center, a non-profit facility, can’t get needed funding.  Go to any other city – Cartersville, Atlanta, Blue Ridge, Chattanooga – and you’ll find true arts patrons supporting facilities and events that are open and available to the public. I spoke with a representative from the Booth Western Art Museum last week who was excited to be coming to Jasper.  Surprised I did not know about the event he was attending, I asked for more detail.  “Oh it’s in Big Canoe” he replied.

Arthur Fiedler, renowned Boston Pops conductor, held free concerts in the Boston Commons and secretly served as a Volunteer Fire Fighter.  I know this as he lived next door to my grandparents, the fire truck would swing by and get him on their way to a call.  With all his fame, he remained rooted (loved and respected) in the community. Folks need to be less self-important and more concerned for lasting greater good if they truly cherish this little mountain refuge.  That’s what leaving a legacy is about.  Can you imagine having Sharptop Arts Center for more than 40 years and losing it to lack of support under our watch?

What would you like to see happen at Sharptop in the next year? In the next five years?

What I hope to see happen is already in motion. Really interesting people are coming through the doors, looking around, and finding “that special something” they have been looking for. They are a breath of fresh air and bring with them vision and work ethic that the center needs and deserves.  Five years, more of the same but with greater flourish and more contributing expertise.  Nothing good or lasting happens overnight, but with steady, intuitive, imaginative, effort sprinkled with a dusting of community recognition, Sharptop Arts Center can be that rare flame in the heart of a small southern community that burns bright.

Tell us one of your pet peeves. 

Don’t get me started, I have more than one pet peeve!  Quitters and complainers really gnarl my joints.  “Can’t never could, won’t never will”, my oldest daughter liked to say when she was six years old.  I won’t share my life setbacks, there was tragedy on more than one occasion, but there were also responsibilities, commitments, dependents.  Giving up was simply not an option
Dang that inner voice, it always says “you can do this!”

What are you most proud of in your life and career?

I am most proud of achieving professional goals without missing my daughter’s basketball games or my son’s golf matches.  I have 3 grown children, we worked as a team, and with respect for one another’s needs.  My kids are adults now, with their own families and lives.  We learned and grew from those years of hard work and sacrifice and are all very close, not geographically, but in reality.

What do you do in your down time?

I walk as much as possible, try to start the day with a 5k with my hubby and 2 dogs. I love to read, making up for lost time when parenting came first.  Working in my studio has had to wait but I have  a catalogue of ideas stashed….in my imagination.

What is your favorite artist and/or medium?

I work in oil, I love its willingness to morph.  I guess Georgia O’Keeffe but I’m always exploring new work and techniques.

Who is the most inspiring person you know?

I’m not sure inspiration is human.  When I experience inspiration it is usually in the form of a homogenization of spirit with the divine.

What is your best childhood memory?

Spending time writing and enjoying my imagination.

What is something people don’t know about you?

I don’t hold a grudge. I move on, but I don’t forget, and I never cry on the outside.