TIFTON — A unique multimedia event titled “Blood, Bone, & Stone” will be in the spotlight at the Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College Georgia Museum of Agriculture beginning at 10 a.m. on Sept. 19.
Presented in collaboration with ABAC’s School of Arts and Sciences, the event features Jack McKey, a master craftsman of Naturalistic and Native American Technology. Guests of the day-long event will participate in the world premiere of McKey’s biographical film, which was created by Thomas Grant, an associate professor in the School of Arts and Sciences, and a team of ABAC journalism students.
Grant said the documentary was filmed over a period of two years and features multiple interviews with McKey, his family, and his associates. The film also includes extensive footage of a trip to the American West when McKey and the ABAC crew visited states and places significant to McKey’s life story.
“This is a story of Jack’s obsession with creating the most perfect natural tools and weapons possible,” Grant said.
Following the morning film premiere at the GMA’s Opry Shelter, guests will walk to the GMA Gallery for the opening of McKey’s exhibit, which features several hundred hand-crafted artifacts. McKey and GMA Curator Polly Huff will then host a gallery “walk and talk” during which the artist will demonstrate some of his pieces, tell stories, and answer questions.
As a part of the multimedia event, which has been three years in the making, a written piece will be gifted to each guest attending that day. It was created by ABAC student Billy Ray Malone, who was also a part of Grant’s film crew. The piece dives further into the life and stories of McKey and his work.
A $5 admission fee will be collected, which will cover all the events of the day. Seating for the premiere will be socially distanced and limited to 50 persons. Face masks will be required. Grant and members of the film crew will hold a brief question-and-answer session following the premiere. Attendance at the gallery will be limited to 10 persons per group to maintain social distancing. Groups will be invited in throughout the afternoon on a rotating basis.
McKey, 78, has spent a lifetime developing the natural skills needed to build tools and weapons in the styles of the original people of North America. Although his work is influenced by Native Americans, he says his creations are based primarily on human ingenuity and problem solving – with perhaps a little mystical intervention.
“Native American cultures have always had many meanings to me; foremost of which is knowledge and understanding, the acceptance of the cultures that contributed this knowledge, and appreciation for the things I have experienced through association,” McKey said. “The realization that no contribution from any culture, regardless of significance, should ever be discarded by another.”
Raised in nearby Valdosta, McKey built his first birch bark canoe when he was 9 years old. As a child, he had a vision of a spirit guide taking him to a sacred mountain in Montana. That vision led to years of living in remote areas of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, where he gathered stone, bone, sinew and other raw materials and resources provided by nature to create bows, arrows, lances and clubs.
“Jack is uniquely gifted with a profound knowledge of early native American techniques concerning proper tool and weapon construction, virtually lost to history today,” Huff said. “He is a lifelong student and a teacher. Working with Tom Grant to develop and present what ended up being a multifaceted event has been a privilege. “
Huff said McKey is one of only a handful of people who can make the American Composite, a powerful bow from the horns of bighorn sheep. The horn bow is perhaps the most sought-after North American artifact in existence today. McKey has used his horn bow to harvest a variety of big game animals, including bison and cougars. He calls the sheep horn bow the “atomic bomb” of Native American weapons and says the bow can shoot several hundred yards.
McKey has given presentations about his handmade tools and weapons around the nation. A Canadian museum director called his works “exceptionally exquisite” replicas of historical objects. He noted that McKey discovered his techniques through intense research and unflagging trial-and-error, sometimes figuring out obscure techniques that had been completely lost.
Now living in Ocilla, McKey and his wife, Betty, raise purebred Black Mouth Cur dogs while he continues work on his collection.
McKey’s work will remain on display inside the GMA Gallery until July 2021. The film will be projected in the Gallery daily, allowing those who missed the premiere a chance to view it. The written piece will be made available to Gallery guests following the opening, while supplies last.
GMA Curatorial Interns Tristin Clements of Tifton and Isai Vega of Fitzgerald worked alongside Huff for two semesters to assist with footage for interactive labeling and the selection and installation of artifacts.
ABAC students who helped produce the film included Landon Rowe, Jamie Worsley, Jessie Shiflett, Randie Sumner, Ethan Reddish, Jack Jordan, Clare Jarboe, Walter Glenn, McKenzie Lewis, Leila Baxter, Courtney Daniel, Malone and Vega. The film also features original music by ABAC’s Clint “Rvshvd” Johnson.
Admission to the exhibit following the opening event will be included in daily GMA admission and free with a current GMA season pass. For more information about the “Blood, Bone & Stone” event, interested persons can contact Huff at email@example.com or Grant at firstname.lastname@example.org. A preview of the film can be seen at www.bloodboneandstone.com.