A Letter from Grant Joy

Grant Joy

Grant is originally from southwest Ohio. After college, he spent the past two years as an AmeriCorps member serving and traveling around Colorado and Vermont, before deciding to return closer to home in southern Ohio. His love of history, culture, and hiking drew him to his current position as an AmeriCorps member based in Shawnee. Grant believes Shawnee is a place of exponential possibility. He feels Shawnee has something different to offer everyone. 

In our country, there is an increasing need to focus on things that unite us and bring us together while providing a reprieve from divisiveness and the new normal. I am of the belief that history is an avenue to do that.  It can foster greater unity, compassion, empathy, and understanding. An understanding of what it means to be human and what it means to be part of a community, that is the extraordinary value of history to me. 

In the Hocking Valley, there are very few things that physically connect us more to the regional history of the Valley and of its people than the Tecumseh Theater. It provides a direct result to those who’ve come before us, and in doing so provides us with a foundational understanding of the identity of those who call this area home. Constructed right after the Great Fire of 1907, that tore through much of the western portion of Main Street Shawnee, the Theater is a tangible testament to the fundamental Appalachian traits of resiliency and community. Still standing 113 years later, I can’t think of a better structural representation of resiliency and persistence than the Theater. These traits help to create the fabric of the Hocking Valley and are what make the people who call their home here so special. 

The Tecumseh Theater is a representation of what this region was, but better yet, what the region can become again. It is a constant source of hope and beacon of light in a time of uncertainty and gloom. It’s a living repository of personal memories: a Bobby Burns Society Dance, a Welsh Eisteddfod, a first movie, first dance or kiss, a graduation, or just a night where laughter and entertainment fill the air binding us all closer together. The Tecumseh Theater is something different for all of us, but by being so, it unites us and provides a commonality we all share. It is the connective tissue that binds us all together to create an interwoven fabric among us all. The theater connects us to the past while simultaneously anchoring us in the possibility of the future.  It’s a testament to the gritty men who hauled bricks from Seven Chimneys and built the I-Beam Skyscraper brick by brick. It’s a testament to the volunteers that saved it from the Wrecking Ball and helped to put a new roof on it in the mid-1970s despite a lack of roofing experience. It is a physical manifestation of what it means to be an Appalachian. The Tecumseh is a  fundamental belief in the power of community and the unwavering resolve of those who call the region home.

To me, the theater is a manifestation of community, resiliency, and a living historical repository. It is deceleration that boldly exclaims: “We’ve been owned before, but we sure as hell won’t be owned again!” That is the power of The Tecumseh Theater. The theater belongs to all of us. 

Today, the theater continues to bring folks together whether it is the backdrop of Shawnee Second Saturday concerts, Little Cities of Black Diamonds events, historical talks and exhibitions, educational training, weddings, community potlucks, or voting. The theater is a living, breathing piece of ourselves and is central to what it means to be Appalachian.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: