McTell art display unveiled in Thomson

After more than two years of planning and collaboration, the Thomson-McDuffie Convention and Visitors Bureau unveiled the McTell’s 12-String Strut art design project with a reveal party at the Thomson Depot on Friday.

Local artists from around the county were introduced and took turns unveiling their individually designed 7-foot Stella guitar replicas, in honor of blues music legend Blind Willie McTell.

“This project began about 2½ years ago when the Georgia Department of Economic Development brought a tourism production development team to the county to stay for a week and visit with us and help us try to find some new ways to promote the county,” said Elizabeth Vance, of Thomson-McDuffie Convention and Visitors Bureau. “One of those ways was public art and one of those ways was finding an everyday presence for Blind Willie McTell.”

Thus the public art project honoring the Thomson native Blues musician was born.

The first guitars were inspired and constructed by Bob Flanders, a McDuffy County Tourism Board member, and his wife Kelly, according to Vance.

“(Bob) placed them out in the community two years ago, and they were a huge hit, but wooden guitars were not going to stand up to the elements for very long, so we had to find a way to make them more permanent,” said Vance.

At the reveal party, guests were able to get a first look at each guitar, which were given their own names. Some of those names included Traveling Blues, Blind Willie’s Blues, Three Women Blues,Bluestrings, Georgia On My Mind and more.

To help fund the project, the City of Thomson was recently awarded $5,000 from the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Tourism division. The Tourism Product Development Resource Team Community Funding Program was designed to financially support tourism development activities at the local level that maintain and create jobs, attract tourists, and enhance the visitor experience, according to a news release from the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

Georgia Tourism’s Product Development team assists counties, cities, private for-profits and nonprofits by providing resources and financial assistance to develop tourism product across Georgia. In addition, the McDuffie County Board of Commission and McDuffie County Tourism Board also assisted with funding.

During the reveal party Friday, Steve James, an expert of the blues style played by McTell, performed for visitors.

For three years the guitar sculptures will be featured throughout Thomson and McDuffie County. Also, a downtown display will be available with audio samples of McTell’s music.

For more on the exhibit, visit


Story by:  Abbigail Lennon for The Columbia County News-Times

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