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The Third Floor aims to ‘rally the village’

The Third Floor aims to ‘rally the village’

Posted: Friday, June 7, 2013 5:00 pm

By HOPE MONTGOMERY
Messenger Intern
The saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child,” but Jonathan Johnson poignantly adjusted the old phrase, saying, “It takes a village to raise an artist” talking about the mission of the new performing and visual arts community center located in downtown Union City.
Johnson is a board member for The Third Floor, the performing and visual arts center making its official debut in mid-August with its first theater performance, “Our Town.”
The Third Floor is the combination of several people’s ideas. Johnson said he and his friend, Maggie Olmstead, actress in the latest Masquerade Theatre Play “The Odd Couple,” had been dreaming of starting a smaller theater in Union City for a while. They envisioned a smaller stage that would open up the opportunity for a new variety of plays that Masquerade’s stage was too big to produce.
Later they found out Susie Fleenor and Jenny Virgin had dreams of their own concerning the expansion in art appreciation and activity in Union City.
With a little luck and a simple twist of fate, these people’s ideas all came together centering on the third floor space of Rob and Susie Fleenor’s family business downtown, Braylee’s Zoo. On the first floor, the family runs Braylee’s; the second floor is a community home schooling program; but the third floor — until recently — was put to no use.
The moment Johnson and Olmstead laid eyes on the 2,800-square-foot room on the third floor of the First Street building they knew that the space would be perfect for the small theater they had envisioned.
Johnson and Ms. Olmstead smiled, saying the space just had “character” with its wood floors and brick walls. Judging from its history, that’s putting it lightly. In the past the area has served as a wrestling arena and an archery range. The area has a history of being full of life, and it’s only just starting to see its newest transformation with The Third Floor.
After casually mentioning their idea around board members for the Masquerade Theatre, their idea found wings coupling with the Fleenors and Ms. Virgin.
Hearing the support of theater and art veterans such as Sacchi Doss really encouraged the group to get serious about their idea. “Sacchi was really just over the moon about the idea,” said Johnson. “There was nothing better for us than having her blessing.”
Interestingly, The Third Floor is open about its aim to not be in competition with Masquerade Theatre’s audience or mission. “This project aims to be community centered,” said Johnson, “We aim to work with Masquerade and similar programs in the area in a complementary sort of way.” In fact, many Masquerade board members are also on The Third Floor’s board.
The Third Floor’s board includes Johnson, Ms. Olmstead, both University of Tennessee at Martin theater major graduates, Ms. Virgin, Jared Hamlin, Linda St. Clair, the Fleenors and their children, who help them run the business, Brandon Fleenor, Rayanna Fleenor and Cassidy Fleenor.
The Third Floor aims to be a huge art center for the area. An area open for art shows, book signings, theater workshops, culinary classes, poetry readings, dance recitals, music performances — the sky is the limit really.
“Union City needs an outlet for the arts. There’s so much talent here,” Johnson said. The Third Floor aims to harness and unite these talents and act a base for creative discovery and learning for local artist of all kinds.
“It was just a dream for me until Maggie came up to me a few days later and said, ‘I bought black paint,’” said Johnson. That was in late March, and the rest has been history.
Every hurdle the new art center has been faced with, it has quickly overcome. “There was a moment where we ran out of money and we didn’t know what to do, so I just started calling everyone I knew,” Johnson said. Within a week, enough people donated money for the project to be finished.
The art center considers itself an umbrella for all the arts. Twice a year it will put on plays, starting with “Our Town,” the debut performance for The Third Floor. The rest of the time the center will put on semester long theater workshops for all ages, community classes for culinary, visual arts and literary interests and host a wide range of performing arts and art venues.
“Our Town,” a minimalistic set and iconic play, embodies the style that The Third Floor is after.
“We really hope that The Third Floor is a place where the arts stimulates conversation and debate and challenges thoughts in every facet of life; that’s how we gauge success,” Johnson said.
But one thing an artist of any kind knows for sure is that it takes more than just talent to generate success — even more than anything it takes support.
“We want the town to be proud of the art involvement in Union City,” said Johnson. “Something a lot of people don’t realize is that great productions unfortunately often take a lot of money.” The Third Floor is looking for support in any way possible — monetary sponsors, community involvement, active audiences and general interest.
If there were any village capable of supporting a cause, Union City is sure the place to be, and The Third Floor hopes that people sees its vision and its mission as a more than worthwhile cause to rally around and support.
Auditions for “Our Town” take place on Sunday and Monday from 5-8 p.m. on the second floor of Braylee’s Cottage and Zoo, located at 228 South First St.
To find out more about The Third Floor, check it out on Facebook or visit www.the3rdfloor.us.
Editor’s note: Hope Montgomery is a sophomore at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark.  She is the daughter of Bob and Amy Montgomery of Union City.

Published in The Messenger 6.7.13

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