In spring of 2007, Dr. Linda Gary orchestrated the first printing of the Bell Tower arts journal. Since then, the literary magazine has become a popular, award-winning publication.
“I was struck that they didn’t really have a journal to highlight student work [when I came to TJC in 2005],” said Gary. “It was a hit [when the first one was published]. It’s a collaboration among three departments, Art, English and Graphic Arts.”
The Bell Tower showcases student poems, drawings and photos. No faculty or staff work is featured in the journal.
“It is entirely student generated,” said Gary. “Students design the cover, students design the layout, and they are a part of the select process. It is only student work in between the covers. We really wanted this to be about the students and celebrating them.”
The Bell Tower has won multiple awards at the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association.
On April 2, the Bell Tower won a 2nd place award for Overall Excellence, beating out Texas Women’s University, North Lake, Eastfield, Sul Ross and Northeast Texas Community College.
“We win awards every year,” said Gary. “We have won overall excellence three times, which is like winning best picture at the Oscars. The literary magazine is an open division, meaning we are up against universities. [The student] work is so outstanding.”
Gary always wanted a festival that would coincide with the release of the Bell Tower Arts Journal.
“The timing was never right, maybe next year,” said Gary. “But three years ago, we said ‘Yeah, let’s do this,’ so we looked at the calendar and April was a good month. It’s spring, it’s pretty out and everybody is anxious to do things but we noticed there were already a lot of things on the calendar.”
The festival started out as a nine-day event, but expanded to a month-long event last year.
“It’s really become this wonderful collaboration and celebration of what we do,” said Gary. “The Art Festival is really TJC’s gift to the whole East Texas community. Come on out and see great art, listen to terrific guest speakers we have invited and pick up a copy of the Bell Tower while you are at it.”
The Bell Tower will have a release party on at 2 p.m. April 17 in Pirtle 127.