As the change of seasons slowly overtakes Mobile, other transitions are occurring in its cultural world. The Mobile Arts Council (MAC) board has named Director of Operations Hillary Anaya its interim executive director, an action formalized at the board’s Sept. 14 meeting.

“We are very pleased to have Hillary at the helm of the Mobile Arts Council,” board president Bunky Ralph said in a news release. “Hillary knows the agency from top to bottom and has done a great job in a variety of positions.”

Ralph went on to detail Anaya’s track record at the umbrella arts organization, beginning as an intern while a senior in the music business program at the University of South Alabama. After graduation in 2010, Anaya was hired as a MAC administrative assistant, added bookkeeping duties and most recently was made director of operations.

The release said Associate Director Charlie Smoke is relocating to Pensacola and resigning his position. Smoke has worked at MAC since 2002 when he left a job as program director for public radio station WHIL. He will continue in a part-time capacity at MAC.

“Charlie has been the heart of MAC and we will miss him tremendously, but he’s just going over the state line to Pensacola, so we’ll still see his smiling face,” Ralph said in the news release.

The MAC board also named Lucy Gafford its new program coordinator. A recipient of the 2014 Greater Mobile Arts Award for Emerging Artist, Gafford has served as MAC’s educational coordinator for ChARTing New Directions since May 2015, according to her LinkedIn page. She previously worked as a volunteer with MAC and has also been an art instructor.

MAC’s last executive director, Bob Burnett, resigned in mid-January after holding the position since November 2003. He has since relocated to Indianapolis, where he works with Butler University as grant manager for region seven of the Indiana Arts Commission Regional Arts Program.

Battle House gets seasonal spirits
Mobile Mystery Dinners have a been a big hit in the Azalea City for the better part of the last decade. The comedic, musical whodunits draw big laughs along with audience participation and there will be a special version just for the witching season.

On Saturday, Oct. 24, the act moves to one of Mobile’s grandest environments, the historic Battle House Hotel at the corner of Royal and St. Francis streets. The Crystal Ballroom will be the stage for “The Mystery of the Battle House Spirits” dinner theater.

The evening’s story orbits a grisly massacre that took the lives of 10 guests and a pair of managers as they all slept. In the wake of this crime, the hotel was shuttered and rumored to be haunted. However, a pair of twins — a maid, Hazel, and caretaker, Rockmorton — survived the carnage. To date, the story goes, they remain the only folks to enter the hotel.  

Once gambling is legalized in Mobile, the old hotel is targeted for demolition to erect a casino. Then a storm closes in, bringing those seeking shelter. The evening’s impromptu guest ledger includes a bank robber, a movie star, a spiritual medium, a ghost hunter, a witch and a murderer. Throw in a family reunion and the elements for insanity are in place.

Though not required, guests are encouraged to wear Halloween attire to the dinner. Prizes will be awarded for the best three costumes.
The event starts at 7 p.m., with doors at 6:30 p.m.

Cost of $75 per person includes the performance, dinner and wine. A cash bar will also be available.

Reservations are required. Call the Battle House Spirits Hotline at 251-338-5441 or email If you want to make a weekend of it and stay at the Battle House, guest room reservations may be made at
Additional details are at

New Oyster Trail shell at GulfQuest
Since 2013, the Oyster Trail has sought to marry ecological responsibility with artistic skills in keeping Mobile Bay’s shellfish history at the fore of local consciousness. Founded by the Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program, 5-foot fiberglass shells were created then parsed out to area artists to receive visual renditions of area cultural expression.

To date, a couple dozen of these massive mollusks have been placed in spots throughout communities on both sides of the bay, from Bayou La Batre to Orange Beach. Some of the artists enlisted have been Riley Brenes, Verna Bryant, Nick Cantrell, Kathy Friedline, Lucy Gafford, Ardith Goodwin, Ameri’ca Jones, Mary Elizabeth Kimbrough, Judy Oxford, Nancy Raia, Kate Seawell, Melissa Shaver, Devlin Wilson and Amanda Youngblood.

Now James Foster joins that roll call of painters, with his contribution unveiled Sept. 13 at the GulfQuest National Maritime Museum. His shell depicts a sunlit waterscape, fishing rod and reel, waterfowl and a map of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta along with a pearl inside an open oyster.

With GulfQuest due to make its premiere this weekend, the shell sitting on the edge of its parking lot will be viewed by thousands before year-end.

Congrats to Foster and the Oyster Trail! A map of the full trail can be found at