Pat Gallagher/The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Cheryl Oliver has discovered her artistic medium in the past few months and her canvas is the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts.

After serving several months as interim director, Cheryl Oliver officially became the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts executive director Tuesday, according to the center’s Board Chairman Bob Harrison.

Her term as interim director started almost immediately upon completing eight and a half years working with the non-profit organization Kids Chance. She had planned on taking some time to reflect, but the offer to serve as the center’s interim director was one she couldn’t refuse, especially since it kept her close to her beloved Downtown Valdosta.

Within the first couple days as interim director, Oliver had an immediate trial by fire, dealing with an opening reception of a new series of shows in the center’s galleries and the center’s Presenter Series presentation of the Johnny Cash musical “Ring of Fire.”

From there, she’s found the board an incredible group of creative volunteers; the staff, a diverse group of individuals who make each facet of the center hum; and the area’s artists, inspiring in their versatility and creativity, “who do what I wish I could do,” she says.

From Quitman, Oliver grew up in a musical family, with an appreciation for all of the arts. Her interest in the arts publicly surfaced late last year, when she announced an art contest as the chairman of the Lowndes County Board of Elections to decorate the board’s offices.

As executive director, Oliver has a vision for the center.

“As fabulous as the center is, my primary goal is to make this a regional arts center, reaching out to other communities as well as portions of our community that may feel excluded from the center,” Oliver says. “This is everyone’s arts center, and we want the community and the region to know that.”

The arts center has also grown from being a five-county hub as a partner with the Georgia Council of the Arts to covering 10 counties: Lowndes, Echols, Lanier, Brooks, Clinch, Berrien, Cook, Thomas, Grady and Decatur.

Cheryl and husband Jack Oliver enjoy their Francis Lake home where she gardens. “Gardening is probably my creative and artistic outlet,” she says. “The earth is my canvas and the flowers are my paint.”

She recalls a poem she painted on a rock for her father’s rose garden: “This old world we’re living in is mighty hard to beat. You get a thorn with every rose but aren’t the roses sweet.”

And now she will see how the arts center grows.

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