Barbara Summers and her husband Caley got involved with the Southern Hills Arts Council in 1984. Barbara served as volunteer and held several offices before becoming SHAC’s Executive Director in 1987. Barbara retired in February 2016, shorty after the Grand Opening of the Markay Cultural Arts Center – a renovation project she directed from start to finish.
Barbara and her husband, the late Caley Summers, bought 70 beautiful acres in Bloomfield Township in 1971. They intended their Jackson County hideaway as a spot to which they would eventually retire from their theatrical careers. She was a Stage Manager. He was a Costume Designer. They worked Broadway, off-Broadway, Regional, Repertory, and Star Stock companies.
However, the lure of the land and the friendliness of the people proved a powerful force. They moved to Jackson permanently three years later and started gardening, raising chickens, rabbits, and Nubian goats. Eventually they built a passive solar home on the very spot where they married. Barbara worked as a waitress for 15 years at Sadler’s Restaurant. It was the best introduction to Jackson County that she could have had as she got to meet hundreds of people.
Sadly, Caley passed away in 1992. For years Summers worked for The Telegram and retired from that position after about 20 years.
Southern Hills undertook the task of renovating, maintaining, and operating the 1930 Art Deco Markay as a community cultural arts center in the fall of 1996, the work of the Council has exploded. The first portion of the renovation opened June 1, 1997 with Gallery, Meeting/Classroom with Arts Library, kitchen, and office. Barbara was involved with the Markay’s Renovation since the initial concept was broached by Tom Evans, then Mayor of the City of Jackson. She ttended every meeting of the Renovation Committee, was involved in every discussion from concept to construction.
Barbara’s work with the Markay was recognized by the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce in 1999 when she received its Community Pride Award and later when she was selected as Apple Festival Grand Marshal. Barbara was honored to be named a Friend of Education by the Wellston Teachers Association. In 2005 the Knights of Columbus honored her with their Community Spirit Award. Barbara was honored by the Jackson County’s Junior Achievement Board and honored with JA’s National Bronze Award and a State Recognition in 2008.
In 2016, Barbara was awarded the Jenco Award by the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO). A field of interest fund at the FAO, The Jenco Foundation Fund was established to provide an award to a citizen of Appalachian Ohio who has demonstrated visionary leadership in serving Appalachian Ohio.