Arts and Culture

Shani Gilchrist



Lake City comes alive with an epic Southern art festival

Posted 4/14/2013 1:25:00 PM

The world might realize that the South is a rich stew of culture and storytelling, but extent of the artistic side of that culture is a story in itself whose legacy is constantly reinventing itself. It seems that everywhere you go in the Southeast someone is gushing about the latest new and innovative arts event they’ve attended. As much as we all revere and respect the cultural communities of New England and the West Coast, there is a special magnetism felt in the arts of the South that is felt all over the world.

There is little doubt that South Carolina has fertile ground for creativity to grow. Recognizing this, Lake City boosters, a group led by world-class businesswoman Darla Moore, have created an event that draws attention to the consistent bumper crop of visual arts talent in the South.

Artfields, a large-scale art competition featuring the work of over 400 works selected from artists in 11 Southeastern states, takes place April 19–28. The event will take place in various parts of Lake City, a town in Florence County that predates the Revolutionary War. I spoke with Columbia artist Laurie McIntosh, who will be showing her work from her October show, “All The In Between: My Story of Agnes.” She told me how excited she is about the event and for the town that is playing host. “This is really going to wake people up to the realization that the revitalization of any town is based on the arts,” she said. “I can’t wait to get down there. There are so many artists that I can’t wait to see and meet. I think it’s going to be a really good event.”

Darla Moore’s vision for ArtFields includes showcasing the creative talent that is bred in South Carolina’s cultural communities much the way cities like Austin have. Inspiration isn’t just “everywhere” in such places, it is marketed and catered to in order to draw people to quaint, beautiful backdrops much like the ones present in Lake City.

Art will be everywhere. From the event’s hub at Ragsdale Old Building to Ronald E. McNair History Center to Joe’s Barber Shop, buildings will be bursting with artwork. Why everywhere? How often have you driven through a beautiful and small southern town and looked wistfully at the buildings representing past ages of common architectural excellence and imagined yourself wandering in? How often do you get to really explore those buildings and the surrounding outdoor spaces that have seen so much of the region’s agricultural and social history? This is the perfect opportunity to explore a small Southern town’s past, future, and extended potential.

Regional artists jumped at the chance to be selected for the Artfields competition. The top prize offers an award of $50,000 and is partially factored by the votes in the People’s Choice Award, which awards $25,000 to the winner. Overall, $100,000 will be awarded to some of the South’s best artists, and the best part is that visitors get to take part in bestowing those awards. Artists are so wrapped up in the excitement surrounding the event that it is pouring out of Lake City. Laura Spong, a Columbia artist who is participating, has already called her fellow local artists together for a follow-up show called “ArtFields, Extended,” which will take place at Vista Studios 80808 at the beginning of May.

Out of the artists selected there are 301 participants from South Carolina, including 102 from the Charleston area, 46 from the Columbia area, 20 from the Myrtle Beach area and 15 from the Upstate. In addition to touring Lake City’s best spaces while surveying the art, visitors will have the chance to attend lectures, workshops, parties, and more throughout the nine-day festival. Some of the highlights include:

* An artist lecture with Dr. Leo Twiggs on batiking, a technique using dye and wax to color fabric on April 26.

* A conversation with internationally known Lowcountry artists Jonathan Green and Mary Whyte, moderated by the Gibbes Museum of Art’s Angela Mack on April 20.

* Artist talks with Installation Artists of the Carolinas in front of their work, various dates and locations.

* Plein aire painting workshops in rural Lake City and at Moore Farms Botanical Gardens, various dates and locations.

* A chance to participate in Artfields After Dark: Exquisite Corpse Featuring DJ Rocky Horror, an interactive art project based on the old parlor game created by surrealist painters of the 1920s on April 27.

Dubbed the “epic Southern artfest,” Artfields won’t only be concentrating on visual art. Throughout the event there will be free concerts, dinners, and more.

If you want to experience the brilliance of Southern art culture in its true form, Lake City is the place to go this month. With the kind of blend of history and innovation that is promised, Artfields is bound to become a shining example of the New South.