If you’ve ever visited downtown Jonesboro and browsed through the renowned Arts Clayton, then surely you have met Linda Crissey, who has served as its Executive Director for the past 20 years. Always congenial and passionate about arts education for the children, this beacon of arts in the community will retire on June 30th.
Arts Clayton was founded for the purpose of raising money to support arts education in the Clayton County Public School System, and Linda has been committed to fundraising since she arrived about 30 years ago.
Linda grew up in Jonesboro on her dad’s 330-acre farm on Noah’s Ark Road, where now sits the Stillwater Estates Neighborhood. She can tell you some pretty interesting stories of how Jonesboro has evolved from the 1950s.
Part of my love for Clayton came from sitting with Linda in this centuries-old gallery, which was once a gas station. The brick walls, maple hardwood floors, and artwork on display in each of its three galleries, with Linda Crissey at its helm, are all a part of Clayton’s rich heritage.
On occasion when I visited the gallery, I would sit down with Linda as she shared stories of people, artifacts, and events, some of which brought tears to my eyes- it felt like I was there experiencing it too. After listening to story after story in a gaze, I realized that Linda was special, a walking history book, and I never get tired of learning the history of how this community came to be. Linda found a way to infuse history with art, which is displayed for all to see on the mural that adorns the exterior wall of Arts Clayton in downtown Jonesboro.
Over the years, Linda, with her staff by her side has hosted memorable art experiences, exhibit openings, and annual events such as Arte’ Gras and the Alan Vigil Ford Golf Classic. Her love for the community extends across county lines, and her grace and influence attract friends and donors, both far and near.
Linda married James (Jim) Crissey on November 7, 2015. Jim is now retired but served as the CEO of Clayton County’s Southern Regional Medical Center. She has two daughters, Desiree Blackwell and Danielle Counts, two grandsons, and two granddaughters (one recently adopted). Linda and Jim reside in the Lake Spivey area.
I recently sat down with Linda Crissey to ask about her past, present, and future, and this is what she shared:
Q: Where did you grow up in Clayton County?
I grew up on Noah’s Ark Road in Jonesboro. My family sold the property 2 and ½ years after daddy passed away.
Q: What schools did you attend in Clayton County?
Jonesboro Schools, from first to 12th grades
Q: What positions did you hold prior to Arts Clayton?
Paralegal for a Jonesboro law firm for 20 years; Managed Woodlake Beach & Tennis Club; Membership Director for the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce; and Event Coordinator for a national party rental company.
Q: Who introduced you to Arts Clayton?
I knew everyone involved but two very dear friends, Lee Fincher and Ann McCranie influenced me to stay involved and take on more responsibilities. My volunteering led to greater responsibilities, which eventually led to being the President of the Board.
Q: How did you become the director of Arts Clayton?
After serving on the fundraising committee, the planning committee, member of the Board, and then President from 1994 to 2000, the Board recognized our growth potential if there was full-time leadership. An application to the Greater Atlanta Community Foundation for a Director/Marketing person paid off. We received the grant and the Board offered me the position. At that time, I was a partner in a successful female-owned commercial janitorial company for 11 years (having secured 3 major 1996 Olympic contracts). I enjoyed Arts Clayton so much and had financial security, so I thought it would be a good way to close out my working days by working for an organization that I love while serving my home community. So, I sold my partnership and started my journey as the Executive Director of Arts Clayton.
Q: What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment(s)?
Working to get the major bond debt paid off and being part of working with others to create more arts education opportunities for the children of Clayton County, and the surrounding areas. Plus, creating a Georgia artist-supported art gallery that all citizens can enjoy and that all elected leaders can be proud to have in the community. Arts Clayton was the gathering place to be until COVID-19 hit last year.
Q: What is the name of your favorite artwork?
Starry Night and the Café by Van Gogh
Q: Who is your favorite local artist?
Kay Ridge, whose artwork was the first piece purchased for the Arts Clayton Permanent Collection
Q: What will you miss about Arts Clayton?
I will miss the faithful board members who have been invaluable over the years to our successes, and Whitney and Courtney.
Q: What plans do you and your husband have once you retire?
We remain in conversation about what and when. We are both very social so for sure renewing contacts with friends and family that we haven’t seen in a while. Some travel and being with children and grandchildren. For me especially, spending more time with my 8-year old granddaughter.
Q: Are there any words that you would like to say to the community?
I will forever hold my home in my heart and wish continued progress to make Clayton County a diamond in the southern crescent.
As one chapter in Linda’s life closes and another begins, her inspiration will live on within the walls of Arts Clayton.
In celebration of Linda Crissey over the years, watch Clayton State University’s Music Department perform “100 Years” at Arts Clayton (Soloist: Evan Pettigrew)
Dear Linda Crissey,
On behalf of the Arts Clayton Board of Directors, wishing you and your husband Jim a healthy and adventurous retirement with family and friends. Thank you for your part in building this great organization, and for your many years of service to Arts Clayton. With love…