By Nick Nunn staff writer

The members of the Morgan County African American Museum (MCAAM) chose to have their annual meeting on Martin Luther King Day to celebrate past achievements, welcome new leadership, and refocus their vision for the future of the museum.

The museum also hosted an art reception featuring the work of Jeffrey Waller, a local artist from Eatonton.

Waller, self-taught in drawing, painting and intarisia, an artform marked by  decorative inlaid pattern,usually in mosaic worked in wood, creates vivid pieces inspired by music, landscape, and still-life subjects.

“I didn’t know anyone who was doing this kind of art, especially with black art,” said Waller. “I was destined to work with wood. Every job I have had since high school has involved working with wood. I even grew up in the woods.”

Waller hopes viewers of his art will walk away with more than just a interesting visual. “Art is supposed to tell a story…and in order to be known, you have to be different,” Waller told the crowd.

The new director of the MCAAM Kisha Jones recruited Waller, after admiring his art displayed at the Cotton Gin Festival this year, to further integrate the use of local artists in the work of the museum. “It is a big concern for me that we learn how to embrace our artists locally,” said Jones.

The MCAAM is hoping 2014 will mark a new era and new vision for the museum founded in 1993.

“The year 2014 will surely be a year of Jubilee,” said Reverend Fred Perriman as the meeting began. Perriman welcomed new board members Phyllis Martin and Gerri Williams, as well as Kisha Jones, the new director of MCAAM, and presented Richard Hubbard Jr., Elzata Brown, and Linda Tyler with lifetime membership plagues.

“We want to support and honor all of those who have gone before us while looking toward the future for new ways to focus on unity in this community here in Madison,” said Jones. Jones intends to transform the MCAAM into a diverse center of education, racial awareness, and cultural recognition by hosting more events featuring local art and offering classes to the community on local history, family genealogies, and black culture.

“We want to get out of our boxes to become more aware and knowledgeable about other races and culture,” explained Jones. Jones elaborated on the tendency of people to “self-segregate,” gravitating toward people and places with familiarity and shared-culture. “We are trying to get people to think outside of their own culture,” said Jones. “We want to create one Morgan County, one community working together, not separated by race or culture.”

According to their website, “The Morgan County African-American Museum is an institution dedicated to preserving African-American heritage and promoting awareness of the contributions the African-American has made to the culture of the South.”

As the new director, Jones plans on expanding that vision in the coming year. Sherry Terrell, board member of the MCAAM, spoke on the evolving goals of the museum for this coming year.

“The purpose was created in the hope of raising the self-esteem of the African-American youth by teaching them about the contributions made by the African-Americans to the United States and the world,” said Terrell.

“However, through the evolution of our museum, we have been blessed to discover that we have a rich history of local individuals that are a valuable and intricate part of our chemical makeup. We deemed it necessary to provide a platform to display the history of those individuals and their contributions.”

Perriman said the ultimate goal is for the MCAAM to become “the top African-American museum in the state of Georgia. Terrell stressed the importance of highlighting the achievements of local African-Americans, reaching out to the youth, and working with the community as a whole.

“Our mission has been refined and our have shifted toward shedding a broader light on more of our native African-Americans. It is also our sincere passion that we also focus on presenting exhibits that encourage our youth in the area of arts, as well as history. It is also our goal to build bridges of understanding between all races and age groups and to have a larger footprint in the community,” said Terrell.

The MCAAM is located at 156 Academy Street in Madison. For more information about upcoming events and classes, please call (706) 342-9191.