Arts co-op president, members evicted amid controversy

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Reporter - Elizabeth Fields
Photojournalist - Mason Watkins

WEAKLEY COUNTY, Tenn.- The president and remaining members of the Weakley County Arts Co-Op are getting an eviction notice because the owner of the building says they're drawing the wrong kind of attention.

David Hawks is the building manager and treasurer of the Weakley County Republican Party, which owns the co-op building located next to the headquarters.  He told Local 6 he found out about the allegations last Friday, but wasn't able file any paperwork until Tuesday.

Former co-op treasurer Jacquelyn Zickel said Cecil Edward Norwood first showed up at the end of April. She said initially she thought he would be a good fit for the co-op when he proposed using his jewelry as his art trade from the gallery. She and other former members agree, when he moved in and became president, things changed.

"Mr. Norwood kind-of appointed himself," Zickel said. "Slowly, after that, member, after member, after member started pulling out."

Gary Richardson is one of those members. He told Local 6 he didn't like "the way things were headed" and opted out earlier this year. He showcased his artwork in his studio two doors down from the co-op. He said he didn't interact much with members until one came into his studio and complained about Norwood.

"While he was here he asked, 'reckon Mr. Norwood is on the Internet anywhere?' and he was there," he said.

Richardson said he found a mug shot of Norwood in connection to some theft charges in another state. He also found a profile on stormfront.org, a white supremacist website, that advertised jewelry made with symbols of the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis.  The profile listed the same website Norwood uses for his business.

"I don't believe people ought to be making jewelry glorifying the Nazi party or the Ku Klux Klan," he said. "People died fighting to get those symbols removed."

"I'm not saying you don't have your own choice to think and feel how you want, but not in a community type of organization," said Zickel. "Not everyone in our community shares that same philosophy so that's where the political aspect has to be removed."

Zickel added all of the former members have left. She was the last one remaining until Norwood informed her she had been voted out last week.

She said she wants the community to know that she and other former members want to rectify the situation.

According to Hawks, once the eviction notice is served the members will have 30 days to move out.

Norwood did not return Local 6's attempts to contact him for comment.

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