The McDuffie Arts Council is getting back into music, and in a big way, according to its chairman, Marion C. Ivey.
The Packway Handle Band will perform at 7 p.m. Friday at the Thomson Depot, through an arrangement with the arts council.
"This is kind of a rebirth of something we hadn't done in a while," Ivey told The McDuffie Mirror. The council has been most visible in the past year through MAC on Main, the gallery that features artwork.
"Since we started last year working on the gallery we had to kind of put everything else on hold," he said. That effort met its goals. Exhibits are rotated quarterly. A summer art camp provided training to youngsters. A reception in late September will introduce the exhibits for the Christmas season.
"We might have artists working, and potters throwing clay," Ivey said.
But before the recent emphasis on visual arts, the council was more active in music, he said.
"We ran a fairly successful concert series in 2009 and 2010," Ivey said.
He said the caliber of music is central to the arts council's mission.
"We try to bring music to the community that has some sort of cultural significance," he said. "Not just bar bands and party bands."
Ivey said the concerts are not intended primarily as fundraisers, "but we do hope they pay for themselves and sometimes they do."
"We're lucky enough to be in a position were we can bring top-quality cultural events to the community without worrying about the bottom line," he said. "And that's what's important for us is to have a quality experience for the community."
"If we operated like a business, we wouldn't be in business," he said of the council's mission.
"We're very excited about this group," he said of the Packway band.
He said the band is a professional touring group, that its style of music has been refined for decades.
"It's what some call newgrass, the point in the evolution of bluegrass where we're at right now," he said. "It still has the historic elements of what Bill Monroe started 80 years ago."
The quintet originated as part of The Music of Athens, Ga., in 2001, and now plays about 200 shows a year. Their awards include top honors at the 2009 Podunk Bluegrass Festival. The band won Reader's Choice Flagpole Bluegrass band/Americana band of the year awards from 2002-08.
The band was shown on BBC as part of the Celtic Connections series. For more on the band, visit www.packwayhandle.com.
The arts council will next turn its attention to another event.
"We're going to start preparations for our signature festival, which is called Arts in the Alley, for 2012," Ivey said. The event, which is held in the late spring or early summer, took a break in 2011.
"We've actually had some interest from the High Museum of Art in Atlanta to help sponsor that," Ivey said.
The arts council has about 40 members and other supporters.
"We would always use volunteers," Ivey said. "Whether they're members or not, if they're interested in improving the local arts scene, we're glad to have them."
Tickets for the Friday concert are available in advance for $8 at the MAC on Main Art Gallery, 107 Main St. Admission at the door is $10.
Depot doors open at 6 p.m. Food and beverage will be provided by the Savannah Lakes Village Golf Clubs in McCormick, S.C. A donation will be accepted for adult beverages.
For more information, call the arts council at (706) 986-1411, or visit mcduffieartscouncil.org.