SHELBY The grand opening of the Earl Scruggs Center: Music & Stories from the American South will be on Jan. 11, Destination Cleveland County announced last week.
Named for Cleveland County native Earl Scruggs, five-string banjo virtuoso and bluegrass music pioneer, the center will showcase all kinds of regional music from gospel to jazz. It will also focus on education and stories that explain the area’s cultural history.
A member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Scruggs’ “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” was selected for the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry. He was a recipient of a National Medal of Arts.
In 2001 he released an album collaborating with such artists as Elton John, Melissa Etheridge, Sting, Johnny Cash, Steve Martin and John Fogerty. Scruggs died March 28, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn., at age 88.
The Scruggs center is in the completely restored 1907 former Cleveland County Courthouse building in downtown Shelby.
Activities for the grand opening day will include a dedication, music, ribbon cutting, open house and children’s activities on the square.
An evening event – “Remembering Earl: Music & Stories” – will be held in the 1,300-seat Malcolm Brown Auditorium on the campus of Shelby High School, where Scruggs performed in 2007 and 2009. The event will feature nationally recognized artists sharing music and memories of Scruggs.
In the center’s rotunda will be a Scruggs family instrument showcase. A welcome gallery will provide an orientation film introducing Scruggs, his family and Cleveland County.
The remainder of the first floor has three galleries that trace regional history from the Revolutionary War to the heyday of the textile industry in which Scruggs worked before leaving the area.
The second floor has a rotating exhibit gallery, an oral history recording room and an education center for access to oral histories gathered during recent years for search. The former courtroom will be used for programs and special events throughout the year.
Planning for the $6.5 million center began in 2006 and it was launched two years later by the nonprofit Destination Cleveland County as a way to lure tourists to an economically depressed county.
That same year, Destination Cleveland County opened the Don Gibson Theatre a few blocks away, in the renovated 1939 Art deco State Theater. The 400-seat performing arts venue is named after Gibson, another local music legend.
The Scruggs center has received county and federal grants along with donations from businesses and individuals.
In a release, Gary Scruggs said his father, Earl Scruggs, endorsed Destination Cleveland County’s “determination and efforts to establish a world-class facility in Shelby’s venerable old courthouse, and items of historical significance in his life and career will be on display.”
The center will be “a fun and educational experience for people of all ages,” said Gary Scruggs.
Emily Epley, executive director of the Earl Scruggs Center, said “it has been amazing to see the collaboration of the citizens, the city and the county to pull together to create this unique destination which is poised to become a national and international destination. We have folks coming from Japan and South Africa in the coming months and can’t wait to welcome the world to the community where Earl was born.”
Details of the grand opening and the artists performing that evening will be announced in the coming weeks prior to tickets going on sale. The center will have a soft opening in December.
For more information, follow the center on Facebook, Twitter and www.earlscruggscenter.org, or call 704-487-6233.