The Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center (BBTCAC) is a non-profit gallery and studio located in Camden, Wilcox County. The center focuses on artist development and arts education for economic revitalization in the Black Belt region. In terms of median household income, Wilcox County is one of the poorest counties in the state and the country, and the initiative hopes to spur economic development by teaching local people a craft, representing artists, and facilitating the sales of their work to a larger audience.
Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center The cultural arts center was opened in 2005 after evolving from a tourist initiative by the Alabama-Tombigbee Regional Commission, the Al-Tom Resource Conservation and Development Agency, and the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development. Kathryn Tucker Windham was one of the first artists involved and encouraged its creation. Initially, the BBTCAC represented 75 artists and now represents more than 450 artists from 19 different counties who all work with different media, such as pottery, woodturning, sculpture, welding, metalworking, jewelry, fabric and fiber art, and painting. The BBTCAC also represents writers such as Windham and Alabama Center for Traditional Culture director Joey Brackner, selling their books on the website. The venture earned more than $1 million in sales from 2005 to 2015, its first decade of operation. The artists receive 70 percent of the sale price of their art. The center has since become a tourist destination in its own right, attracting people from throughout the country and many foreign countries as well.
Black Belt Treasures Located in a renovated car dealership, the center holds art classes for both youth and adults, including acrylic, oil, and watercolor painting, basket weaving, chair caning, ceramics, pottery, quilling, quilting, sewing, mixed media, and photography. Educational goals range from teaching a new craft for fun to teaching people to become entrepreneurs who can produce and sell their professional art. A book club meets quarterly to discuss literature written by Black Belt authors or about Black Belt-related topics. Auburn University architecture students have been involved in creating concept drawings to repurpose the warehouse space from when the building functioned as a car dealership into more workspace for the artists. In addition to the gallery, the center has office space, a classroom, storage space, and a dedicated pottery station. The center also operates a satellite gallery in Butler County at the Greenville Chamber of Commerce.
Craft Items In 2019, the center received a grant from the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) to support the creation of 10 mosaic benches for placement in the Wilcox County Courthouse Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The Greek Revival courthouse was built in 1859 by Alexander J. Bragg, brother of Judge John Bragg, Confederate general Braxton Bragg, and North Carolina governor and U.S. senator Thomas Bragg Jr. Its exterior is largely in its original state, except for two wings added in 1957.
The cultural arts center is located at 209 Claiborne Street. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., and by appointment on Mondays. Art pieces are on sale online and in the center. Nearby Camden are the Gee’s Bend Ferry, the Gee’s Bend Quilt Mural Trail, the Gee’s Bend Quilters Collective, and the Wilcox Female Institute.