Archive for May, 2013

My Grande Tour of the Pee Dee Area of South Carolina – May 18, 2013

Friday, May 31st, 2013

Sorry for the delay – our June 2013 issue got in the way.

May 18, 2013, was one of those Saturdays where I could accomplish a number of things in one sweep of the Pee Dee area of SC. First up was a visit to downtown Lake City, SC, a month after the big ArtFields event to see what was going on as well as a visit to Moore Farms Botanical Garden, just outside of Lake City, which was having May Days – a tour of the Garden, a plant sale and a BBQ lunch.

Next was a trip to Venters Landing, just outside of Johnsonville, SC, about 20 miles east of Lake City where the town was celebrating its 100th anniversary with a dedication of a statue by Alex Palkovich (Florence, SC) of General Francis Marion – the Swamp Fox.

My final stop was the new location of the Art Trail Gallery in Florence, SC, to see how that area – a new developing arts district in SC, was coming along. I hadn’t been there in some time.

Lake City A Month Later

If the goal of millionaire philanthropist Darla Moore is to remake Lake City into a destination for art lovers or whatever – she still has a lot of work ahead of her to get the town on board. I drove down Main Street twice, once at 9:30am and again at 4pm. And, as Dickens might say – this city was as dead as Jacob Marley. Both times, there were many more empty parking spaces than those with cars in them. Hardly anyone was walking the streets that just a month ago were filled with visitors. It looked like some event was going to happen at The Bean Market and on The Green, but later by 4pm – no one was in sight.


Lake City is still working on banker’s hours – Mon.-Fri. which isn’t going to work if they want people to come there when most have time to go visiting – on the weekend. This is a chicken comes first before the egg moment. Lake City merchants will have to open their doors on the weekend giving tourists a reason to come. Only the retired have time to travel mid-week.


I expected that this would be the case. The transformation of Lake City won’t happen overnight, but I hate to see them not take advantage of the buzz the ArtFields event generated. Of course that buzz had a bit of buzz-kill attached to it with the unfortunate news that they had to suspend the original People’s Choice winner and taking an agonizing week to name the new winner. But my trip wasn’t wasted. I learned from a flyer on the door of the Jones-Carter building that on June 21, 2013, the new Jones-Carter Gallery will present agriART, featuring an exhibit of works by Joshua Vaughan, Mark Conrardy, (both participated in ArtFields) and an installation by Vassiliki Falkehag, which will be on view through Aug. 26, 2013. I hope there will be Saturday hours and maybe even some on Sunday in the future, but for now it’s a Mon.-Fri. facility.

It’s been some time since I’ve seen or heard of anything from Vassiliki Falkehag who did an installation with tobacco seeds and plants – many years ago.

Moore Farms Botanical Garden

I’m an adventurous traveler, and I’ve done a lot of it in the past 30 years. Sometimes I’m very prepared and sometimes I just wing it. I wish I had prepared to find Moore Farms Botanical Garden. This was not one of my better efforts at finding someplace that I had never been to before. And, I’ll admit that most of my problems were my own fault. Firstly I did not check the location on Google Maps before I left home and secondly not knowing how to use my iPhone better, and being a man – not wanting to ask for directions.

In my defense I wasn’t getting much help from Lake City, which I would described as sign-challenged. One of the complaints I heard from many people attending ArtFields was how hard it was to find locations. And although Moore Farms Botanical Garden is a few miles outside of Lake City, I would expect that there would be signs helping visitors locate it, but I learned about that later. Not much was open in Lake City, but I eventually went to the Lake City Post Office and got the directions I needed.

Grass and steel sculpture by Herb Parker


Moore Farms Botanical Garden was the location of one of the invited installations presented during ArtFields so I assumed that it would be one of the attractions drawing folks to Lake City, but I’m not sure. When I got there one of the first things I asked was what their normal hours were and the person responded they are only open four times a year for special occasions like ArtFields and May Days, which was today. That’s too bad, as it would definitely be a draw to Lake City, but I later heard one of the staff tell someone that if they got together ten folks for a tour – they would open for them. This was a little hard to understand. If they will open for a group of ten, why not stay open, promote the place and perhaps see hundreds of folks during a weekend?



Tourism is a bitch – be careful what you wish for, but if you want it you have to cater to it.

Moore Farms Botanical Garden is a great place, but the main problem might be that it is also one of Darla Moore’s homes. Not many people want to live inside an attraction. But you can learn more about what they offer to the public and how to book a tour for 10 on their website ( I’ll let some photos do the rest of my talking.

A side view of The Greenhouse – not where they grow plants, but a green building

This is on the roof of The Green House



Honoring the Swamp Fox in Johnsonville, SC

I did do my homework on Johnsonville, as I had never been there before and didn’t want to end up in Myrtle Beach, SC, before I realized I missed it or end up in the middle of some swamp – like the British.

I first learned about this statue of Francis Marion back in Jan. 2011, during one of my visits to the Art Trail Gallery in Florence, SC, in a conversation with Alex Palkovich, the sculptor who shared space with the gallery and still does today in their new location. He told me a story about a small town in SC doing a big thing by honoring General Francis Marion with a statue at the site where he received his commission to lead the Williamsburgh Militia during the Revolutionary War at what was then called Witherspoon’s Ferry on the Lynches River.

You can read my first post about this project at this link.


But today (May 18, 2013) was the long awaited dedication day. It was the main reason I was on this tour. You see, I really like Francis Marion, he’s a true American hero of the Revolutionary War – a war South Carolina should pay more attention to than one that didn’t turn out so well.

That’s Yankee talk to most here in the South, but as I’ve stated before, my ancestors didn’t have a stake in that war – they were too busy running from their English or Prussian overlords.

Revolutionary War encampment

Besides, I had received an official invite to attend this event by Johnsonville Mayor Steve Dukes, who had come across my blog post about Palkovich and the Francis Marion statue. He was looking for someone outside of the Pee Dee to come to the event without much luck. You see, the media and most folks in the bigger cities in SC don’t care about much that isn’t going on it their cities. I was already planning on going so I was an easy invite.

May 18, 2013 was also the 100th anniversary of Johnsonville, so like many other small towns it was going to be a big event – to scale. Plus many of the folks who still live in the area are kin to the men who followed Marion through the swamps of the region giving the British nightmares.


A project like this had a lot of help from a lot of groups and organizations so there were a lot of folks to thank and politicians on hand to give speeches on a hot day. Unfortunately or fortunately, part of the festivities included free helicopter rides which kept flying over the area about every 5 minutes and a train went by – just 100 yards away – so we didn’t have to hear much of what was being said by the politicians. Most people there, like me, wanted to see the Swamp Fox.

Alex Palkovich with some of the re-enactors

The New Art Trail Gallery

From Johnsonville I headed to Florence, SC, on Hwy. 51 through another area I’ve never been to – going through Pamplico, SC. I’ve seen that name on highway signs many a time, but never had a reason to go there. It looked like a nice small southern town.

Florence is a town I’ve been to a lot. It’s just two hours away and I’ve passed through it or near it many a time going into North Carolina to deliver papers. Over the last two or three years I’ve been traveling to the Art Trail Gallery to see shows by regional artists. During the last year they moved to a new location which I had not been to, but that would end on this day. Unfortunately, they were getting ready to display a new exhibit,Photolicious, which is on view now through June 15, 2013. Many of the works were stacked up on the floor, so I did get to see most of what would be that exhibit. There are a lot of talented photographers in the Pee Dee.

This new space on West Evans Street is smaller than their first location on Dargan Street, but it’s still in an area which will be the growing arts district in Florence. Francis Marion University has a performing arts center in the area, a new Florence Museum is being built, and many buildings in the area are being redone, but walking on West Evans I smelled East Bay Street in Charleston, SC. It had that same old musty smell that East Bay had 35-40 years ago. Now it’s one of the hottest spots in Charleston. But, it’s going to take awhile before that smell disappears on West Evans. Some might say it’s the smell of revitalization.

But you could see work going on all over the area. A new  small park was there and people were working on another small landscaped area – dressing up the area. I took a few pictures.


Some people ask me, “What’s with all this attention you’ve been giving the Pee Dee?” I’m sure the folks in the Pee Dee see it another way – more like what took someone so long to notice us, but in SC, traditionally there are only three cities – Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville/Spartanburg (which are two distinctly different cities). Not much else matters to most others who live in SC. But there’s a lot more to SC than meets most people’s eyes and ears.

Soon to be the new Florence Museum

To me, the Pee Dee is the next growth area for the arts in South Carolina. It’s got a long way to go, but a lot of good folks are working hard to make it a place – you should go see. They’re hungry for respect and the recognition they haven’t been given for generations. And, it’s kind of in my backyard. Over the last 26 years I’ve seen lots of the other three areas of the State – my eye is looking for new areas to discover and promote.

So, keep an eye on Carolina Arts and we’ll let you know how things are going in the Pee Dee, and with luck it won’t be as hard as the British looking for the old Swamp Fox.

Springtime is Time to Hit the Quilt Trails in North and South Carolina

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

During cooler times we were receiving info about developments in SC’s Quilt Trails. Info on the expansion of the trails in SC comes in spurts, so we tend to wait until we have a few in the hopper before we release this info to readers. Now that the weather has changed, it’s time to hit the road and see some of these quilt blocks. And to help you do that there have been two publication published – one a map of the “Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail” and “Quilting A Legacy: The First 100 Quilt Blocks of the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail” is a guide offering a photo and description of each quilt on the trail. I’m not sure where you can get these publications, but I imagine SC Tourism Information Centers and offices of the SC Heritage Trails would be a good bet. You can also get a lot of info from (


Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail in Upstate SC, Announces 2013 Quilter of the Year – Verla Warther

The Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail in Upstate SC, announces the selection of Verla Warther as the 2013 Oconee County Quilter of the Year. This award recognizes a local quilter who provides leadership and community service through their quilting.

Warther grew up and went to school in San Jose, CA. She became a teacher of children with special needs and met her husband, William, there through a computer dating service. This was long before the Internet!

They spent 31 years in California, raised a son and then moved to Silverton, OR, a small farming community. She taught math for 27 years there. In 1998, upon retiring from teaching, they moved to Tamassee, SC. Between Verla and William, they have four children, nine grandchildren and two great grandchildren living in Ohio and Oregon. Warther is overjoyed that several of the women in the family are becoming quilters.

Warther was always a seamstress, having learned from her mother, making everything from children’s clothing to Civil War uniforms and dresses, even toys. When her mother-in-law died in 2002, she inherited many hand pieced quilt blocks that had been made by Mary Elizabeth Muelhoffer, her husband’s great-grandmother. She visited Heirlooms and Comfort, a local quilt shop in Central, SC, for advice on how to clean, assemble then eventually create 3 different quilts from the pieces. She was hooked!

A quilting neighbor invited her to join the Lake and Mountain Quilt Guild in Seneca, SC, and that’s where she learned her quilting techniques. Her interest in the history of quilting has led her to doing presentations in local schools and at Guild meetings. She’s served on the Guild’s Comfort Quilt Committee and their Program Committee, as well as taught classes for the Guild at their annual Retreat.

Warther’s twin sister, Laura, is also an accomplished quilter. “In 2005, we took a self-guided tour of New Zealand with our husbands. Laura and I visited many quilt shops and found it to be a wonderful way of getting to know the people of the country – a fellow quilter is never a stranger.  Laura comes every fall and joins me in attending the Retreat offered by the State Guild.  It gives us quality quilting time together.”

When asked what kinds of quilts she likes to make, Warther told us, “I’m a traditionalist. I prefer doing piecing and appliqué by hand – it’s where I find peace, a form of therapy. I do have an appreciation for those who have made quilting a fiber art form, but that’s not where my talent lies. One must enjoy the type of quilting they get involved in. Someday, I would like to become as accomplished a quilter as my fellow guild members, especially people like Marge Edie and Dixie Haywood.”

“Quilting can lead you up many paths. Through an announcement at a Guild meeting, I heard about the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail. I decided to check it out and now I’m an active member of the production team. I help with the drawing and painting of quilt patterns on specially prepared boards, which are then mounted on both public and private buildings. It’s a nice art form for our community, a reason to bring tourists as well as other quilters to the area,” says Warther.

Warther has made many contributions to Oconee County through her volunteer efforts with Keep Oconee Beautiful School Program; Tamassee DAR School special programs; Lake and Mountain Quilters Guild making charity quilts for donation through the Guild programs  and the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail production team and school program. She is always willing to help in way she can.

Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail Expands

Anderson County Farmers Market Quilt

The Anderson County Master Gardeners have sponsored a table runner quilt block to be displayed on the Anderson County Farmer’s Market located on the corner of Tribble and Murray Streets in Anderson, SC.


The 3 block quilt was chosen by several members of the Master Gardeners who are quilters. The table runner quilt was made by Robin Kaja of Anderson in 2012.  She made the specialty quilt in honor of the long time commitment of the Master Gardeners to the Farmers Market. It consists of one Cornucopia square centered between two Corn and Beans blocks. This cornucopia celebrates the harvest in Anderson County which is the reason the Farmer’s Market was conceived. The pattern dates back to the 1930s and is credited to Dolores Hinson. Her version didn’t include the seams in the background. There is a similar block called Nosegay that includes the seams with the “handle” pointing to the corner.  The version in the table runner is possibly based on both designs in order to get the desired orientation in the runner. The Corn and Beans block is credited to Nancy Cabot who had the pen name Loretta Leither Rising used for her “Chicago Tribune” column in the 1930s. Her patterns were printed in the “Progressive Farmer” and were widely distributed according to Barbara Brackman’s “An Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns”.

Robin learned to sew in the 1960s from her mother, who learned from her father and uncles who were all tailors.  A self taught quilter, Robin’s first quilt was handmade when her daughter was born in 1982.  She currently resides in Anderson.

The Anderson County Farmer’s Market Hours:

Thursdays & Saturdays through May:
8 am – 1 pm

Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays June 2 – November 22:
8 am – noon

Tamassee-Salem High School has joined the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail

Tamassee-Salem High School (TSHS) has joined the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail with two quilt blocks. The Tamassee-Salem High School Class of 1981 and former classmates sponsor the first block, the fan pattern quilt is “In memory of our dear principal, Sam Bass, Jr., principal from 1976 – 1989.” Helen Jones who worked with Bass at the school made the original fan quilt. He had asked her to make a quilt in honor of his maternal grandfather, Ben Armstrong, on his 100th birthday. He wanted a quilt made from pieces of clothing from all of Mr. Armstrong’s descendants. So, the quilt was made in 1989.


A quilter all her life, Jones designed the fan pattern using the fabrics from clothing donated by members of the Armstrong-Bass families for each of the ribs of the fans. She learned to sew and quilt from her mother and remembers that the quilt frame hung from the ceiling in her parents’ bedroom. She and her husband, Jerry Jones, were raised in South Florida, and moved to Walhalla from Palm Beach County, FL. They visited the area on vacations and liked it here – the mountains and cooler weather. Today, she makes custom quilts to sell to the public.

Sam Bass was born and grew up in Columbia, SC. He attended the University of South Carolina where he met his wife, Mary. As she told us, “We were young and in love. Sam quit school to support us, then later went back to college and graduated from Mars Hill in North Carolina. In 1976, we moved to Salem, SC, where he served as principal of Tamassee-Salem Middle School for 13 years.”

These former students are dedicating this artwork to Bass, in appreciation of his service, not only to the students and school, but also to the community of Salem.

There are many variations of Fan patterns which seem to have emerged in the last 19th century, when they were popular in crazy quilts and outline embroidery.

The 1981 Class of Tamassee-Salem High School is sponsoring second addition to the school. This quilt block is in honor of their former English teacher, Ron Rash, well-known local writer.

The original quilt, called Crossroads, was made by Rash’s mother, Sue Holder Rash of Boiling Springs, NC. Born in Blowing Rock, NC, Rash attended Gardiner Webb College.  She and her husband, James, had three children. He was an art teacher in Chester, SC, and died in 1980. She made this quilt for her son, Ron and his wife Ann. She began making utilitarian quilts in the 1950s and by 2000, had made more than 100 quilts.  She uses a long armed quilter.

The Crossroads pattern is believed to be part of a series of “Underground Railroad” blocks, designed to assist escaping slaves, unable to read, to their freedom. Crossroads was the seventh block in the series. Once escapees made it through the Appalachian Mountains, they were to travel to the “crossroads” meaning a city where they would find protection and refuge.

Rash taught for two years at TSHS and recalls that it was a wonderful experience. He now teaches at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC, and has published 15 books, including “Serena” which will be released as a movie in 2013.

Westminster, SC, Expands Quilt Trail

The home of Melanie and Scott Burton on Theo Martin Road in Westminster, SC, has been added to the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail. The quilt pattern is Dutch Doll and was originally made by her grandmother, Ruth Azilee Shirley Black. Black was born in the Earles Grove Community of Oconee County in 1913 and died in 1993. She was married to Henry Fletcher Black, a dairy farmer, and they had two children, Henrietta Black Harbert and Joe Henry Black. According to Burton, “Ma-Ma Black had six grandchildren and made each of her granddaughters a Dutch Doll quilt and each of her grandsons a Fisher Boy quilt.”


Ruth Black was a member of the JOY Club at Earles Grove Baptist Church. These ladies often gathered together to quilt. Burton remembers going to Ma-Ma Black’s house and spending a week during the summer and often on weekends. “She always let me play in her trunk of scrap material. She would give me a needle and thread and let me sew to my heart’s content.”

Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail Donates Quilt Block to Oconee County

The Building Blocks quilt block has been donated to Oconee County by the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail, working collaboratively with the County to preserve our heritage through the stories of the quilts and their makers. This quilt block is displayed inside the County Administration Building at 415 S. Pine Street, Walhalla, SC.

The Barn Quilt Trail Project began in Adams County, Ohio in 2001. Today, there are over 4,000 quilt blocks in 47 states. In the spring of 2009 Oconee County became the first county in South Carolina to embrace the Quilt Trail concept. The founding group of volunteers thought that extending the Quilt Trail to homes, historic buildings, public buildings, destination venues and businesses would be a good way to preserve the area’s heritage and promote Oconee County. The Quilt Trial quickly expanded to encompass Anderson and Pickens Counties and is known today as the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail. The local Oconee County group has helped several counties throughout the state develop trails for their areas.


The Building Block pattern first appeared in the “Chicago Tribune” January 15, 1938, with the name of Nancy Cabot.  According to Jinney Beyer, Author of “The Quilters Album of Patchwork Patterns”, the one-patch design is an arrangement of multiple patches of identical shape with varied colors. Ellen Henderson of Landrum, SC, made the fabric Building Block for this painted quilt block. Six members from the Landrum Quilters Guild have each contributed a block that is serving as the foundation to create the Foothills Quilt Trail for the City of Landrum, SC. The Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail has served as their mentor for this endeavor.

The Oconee County Government Annex was originally Pine Street Elementary School from the early 1950’s until 1996. The County acquired the building in 1996 and began centralizing many of its offices to this location in 1997. Currently about 60 alumni of Pine Street Elementary are working in this building. The County Council Chamber once served as the school auditorium.

Quilt Trail Expands in Tamassee, SC

The Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail continues to grow with the addition of a new quilt block in Tamassee, SC. The quilt can be found on the home of Jeanie and Dave Christopher on Jumping Branch Road on Lake Cherokee. She is the quilter and even created the pattern from the flags used by the lake association. They are in the shape of triangle flags.


As Jeanie Christopher told us, “This quilt was inspired by our living here at Lake Cherokee for 10 years. It celebrates our first 10 years enjoying the lake with friends and family. Every year when we pay our lake association dues we are given a colorful flag to put on our boat. This flag signifies that we are members of the association and therefore, have the privilege of using the lake. So, I selected colors for the quilt that were the same as the flag colors over the 10 years.”

“We are Clemson fans and retired here after raising our three children in Athens, GA (Bulldawg territory!). I grew up in Anderson, SC, so our move here was like ‘comin’ back home’ or at least back to my beloved state of South Carolina! I have always loved quilts and helped my Grandmother, Julia Morris, make quilts when I was a little girl. There has always been something special about making a quilt to comfort me or someone else and I treasure those memories of working with my maternal grandmother in Anderson. In the early 80s I took a quilting course while living in Seneca, SC, and made some quilts for my daughter’s doll beds. But, having 3 children kept me too busy to sew except for smocking and other crafty type projects, painting t-shirts or whatever.”

For more information and pictures, click on (

Arts Council of York County adds Barn Quilts to Ag + Art Tour Farms

The public is invited to attend a workshop hosted by the Arts Council on Tuesday, May 7, 2013, at 2pm at the Center for the Arts, 121 E. Main Street in Rock Hill, SC. The workshop will illustrate the process for painting four new, permanent, wooden quilt blocks to adorn barns and other outbuildings at participating Ag + Art Tour farms. The Ag + Art Tour is a self-guided tour that has been designed to generate interest in local farms, fresh foods, and “Made in York County” traditional arts. This year’s tour will be held over the weekend of June 8 & 9, 2013. Participants will assist in painting four new quilt blocks in the following patterns: Cluster of Stars, the Star of Virginia, a variation of the Broken Plate pattern, a variation of the Paper Daisy pattern, and a variation of the Prairie and Blazing Star patterns.

In May of 2011, Arts Council staff traveled to Pickens County to attend a similar workshop on how to build barn quilts.  The idea was to mark all of the York County farms participating in the Ag + Art Tour with a permanent barn quilt, rather than temporary vinyl ones . It was also an attempt to learn the craft and add a new layer of tourism to York County by becoming members of the Upstate Heritage Quilt Tour (UHQT). UHQT is a grassroots public art project consisting of more than 100 quilt panels, winding through Anderson, Oconee, Pickens and York Counties. The quilt blocks can be found mounted on barns, businesses, homes and public buildings, inviting visitors to stop and listen to their stories. So far, the Arts Council has created two new 48″ x 48″ wooden quilt blocks for permanent display. One is located at the Center for the Arts, 121 E. Main St., Rock Hill, featuring a variation on the Cathedral quilt square. The other is located at Windy Hill Orchard & Cider Mill in York, SC, featuring the Hovering Hawks pattern.  Quilt designs are painted on ¾” MDO board that is finished on both sides and then sealed with a marine-grade sealant.

With the installation of the blocks, both sites have been added to the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail. Each year, the Arts Council plans to create 4-5 new quilt blocks for permanent display at Ag + Art Tour farm sites. As the quilts blocks are installed, each new venue will be added to the UHQT, adding to the appeal of agritourism in York County and across South Carolina. Grant funding has been received from York Electric Cooperative and Blue Cross Blue Shield of SC to help fund the project.

The Ag + Art Tour, developed in 2011 by partners, Clemson Extension of York County, the Arts Council of York County, the Olde English District Tourism Commission, the York County Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Culture & Heritage Museums, is partially funded by City and County Hospitality Tax  and Clemson University.

For more information on the Ag + Art Tour, please visit (

Other Quilt Trails in South Carolina:

Foothills Quilt Trail info (

McCormick Quilt Trail info (

Quilt Trails of Western North Carolina

With over 200 quilt blocks, we have the highest concentration anywhere in the USA! Come to Yancey County to get started on your great quilt adventure! We are just 45 minutes North of Asheville, NC – exit 9 off I-26, or exit onto Hwy 80 off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Six contiguous counties host quilt blocks, with the highest concentration in Yancey and Mitchell Counties. While in Yancey County, visit Mt. Mitchell, highest peak East of the Mississippi. Mitchell County is home to Roan Mountain (the rhododendrons are in full bloom in June – gateway through Bakersville, NC) and Avery County offers Grandfather Mountain with its mile-high swinging bridge. Of course we have waterfalls, supreme hiking, great trout fishing, canoeing, golf, horseback riding, and great shopping.

Nine different driving trails take you to view vividly painted quilt squares installed on barns and buildings of participating communities. Even if it is raining you can still enjoy a day of adventure finding the quilt blocks. Stop by the Quilt Trails Gift Shop in the OOAK Gallery on the Loop in Micaville, NC, to purchase a driving map and one or more of the nine tour guides that tell the stories behind the blocks.

For info about other WNC Quilt Trails check these links:

Ashe County Quilt Train info (

Haywood County Quilt Trail info (

Macon County Quilt Trail info (

McDowell County Quilt Trail info (

Wautauga County Quilt Trail info (

A Few Observations About the 2013 ArtFields in Lake City, SC

Friday, May 3rd, 2013


We first brought our readers news of ArtFields ( back in July of 2012. When I first heard of the event I started asking questions to get a grip on what this event was all about. I wanted to make sure I was clear in answering questions that I knew I would be hearing from artists as they found out about the event. Info was a little fuzzy at first and it seemed the more I asked questions the more distance the organizers put between me and themselves. I got the feeling they were not sure how things would work themselves and they were sensitive to being quizzed on their plans. That usually sends a warning flag up for me. If I can’t figure out what was going on – how could I explain it to others.

My main question was, is this just a big juried art show with an unusually big Best of Show award or was this really going to be something like Art Prize which takes place in Grand Rapids, MI? I’ve seen what goes on in Grand Rapids (population around 200,000), but I didn’t get the impression that’s what the folks at ArtFields were calling for in Lake City (populations around 7,000). And, I wasn’t sure they knew with whom they would be dealing and how those folks see things and “folks” would be artists – a different breed of folks. Artists see things differently.




I basically decided I wanted this event to happen and chalked up some of the fuzziness to a first year effort. The first year of anything goes through growing pains and I’ll just have to judge the event by the first effort. So I backed off and waited.

My first sign that something was wrong with the marketing of this event was when I got an e-mail on March 13, 2013 inviting me to the ArtFields Media Luncheon on Apr. 3, 2013, which I would have been interested in going to except for the fact that it was being held in downtown Charleston, SC, instead of Lake City, SC. I still wonder to this day – who showed up?


Why they would want to hold the press luncheon almost 80 miles away from Lake City where the event would take place – I haven’t a clue. Were they hiding something?

And a lot good it did them as I didn’t see a lot of coverage of ArtFields in the Post & Courier. They should have invited the press to see Lake City. Charleston’s media can’t devote enough space to cover all the arts that go on in its own city much less one 80 miles away. Which is a surprise since ArtFields outsourced some of the operation of their art festival to folks in Charleston – who made sure a lot of their friends became part of the first ArtFields – almost 25% of the artists participating in the competition came from Charleston and many of the invited installation artists were from there or have roots there.

In my opinion ArtFields made a mistake connecting themselves to Charleston a little too much. They may have gotten a lot of entry fees from artists there but it didn’t do them any good recruiting artists from the rest of the Southeast.

Those folks say they did a lot of work getting the word out to visual artists in those other states, but the results just don’t show it.


Here’s some examples that back my opinion up.

In June of 2008, the SC State Museum offered a call for entries for its 20th Anniversary Juried Art Exhibition – 500 artists from just SC submitted 1000 works and there were no cash awards.

In 2009, the Elder Gallery in Charlotte, NC, started Carolina’s Got Art! which attracted 1,100 entries, from nearly 500 artists throughout the Carolinas with cash prizes of less than $10,000 with $2,500 going to the Best in Show work. During the third Carolina’s Got Art! (being held at the same time as ArtFields) over 1,000 artists from North and South Carolina entered over 2,800 works of art with over $15,000 in cash and prizes.

ArtFields had $100,000 in cash prizes! Why didn’t they have artists coming out of the woodwork to enter this show?

There are a lot of reasons – some not the kind you would think would stop an artist at a chance to win $50,000, but artists are funny about some things. Here’s some of what I heard. Can’t be right – not $100,000 and not in Lake City. Where is Lake City? No insurance – I’m not giving them my work. I’m not going to have someone in Lake City decide where my art will be placed. Where is the Pee Dee? I can’t figure out what they want from what I read on the website. Who is jurying the entries? Where the heck is Lake City? I could win $50,000 by entering one painting? That can’t be right.

By the time the entry deadline arrived there were 100 entries that were not completed. Something gave those artists second thoughts or confused them about the process of entering.

There also was a disadvantage to artists who lived further away from Lake City and an advantage for those who lived closer since a lot of what might determine if you won two of the prizes was based on the public’s voting for you. Some artists camped out at the event campaigning for votes. This could be a problem in getting more entries from those other Southern states.

But distance isn’t always a problem – many artists enter juried shows all over the country by mailing their entries to the presenting venue – so it’s a puzzle as to why so few artists from other states entered this show. And, from what I saw of some out of state entries, it makes me wonder if some didn’t make the cut because they were from a state on the fringe. I know some of the other 400 artists who didn’t make the cut and compared to some entries I saw – they should have, but that happens in all juried shows.

So, the marketing of this event needs to be better. Especially their use of social media. Take Facebook for an example. In 2012 when they should have been offering artists info about how to join the competition they were making posts like: “The Art of Video Games at the Boca Museum in Florida”. “Lost Renoir Painting at Potomack Company’s Sept. Auction”, “Contemporary Focus 2012 in Knoxville, TN”, and “Phyllis Diller, outlandish comedian, dies at 95″. Did they think this is how they would get the attention of artists and art lovers in other states? They wasted a lot of time not trying to inform people about what ArtFields was and the opportunities it offered. They also didn’t give people a picture of Lake City – which has a story to tell and a plan for the future.

On March 21, 2013, ArtFields posted an entry on Facebook to tell people who lived in the Columbia, SC, area how to get to Lake City, SC, (a two hour drive) and gave suggestions as to where people could eat along the way and what they might see on their travels. I would think that the people in Lake City were hoping people from Columbia would come eat and check out what Lake City has to offer. Let the SC’s tourism folks do the job of informing folks what’s available elsewhere.

It makes me wonder if the folks in Charleston doing the marketing were really interested in promoting Lake City.

I know this all seems like a lot of back seat driving or Monday morning quarterbacking, but these things need to be pointed out (from the outside) in order for the organizers to improve this event.


So, what about the event?

I went twice and still didn’t get to see everything due to two basic problems. One, I know too many artists and people in the visual arts community and I like to talk and find out things and they like to talk with me; two, we were on deadline to finish our biggest issue – ever. Every hour in Lake City cost me big time. But, I really enjoyed my visits there.

Overall, I think ArtFields and the City did a great job of presenting this event for a first time effort. In the buildings they controlled the artworks were presented well and not crowded together. In the merchant venues – some art was well presented as best it could while some places were not so good. Some venues were just too far away from the bulk of the art being presented. This is something they can improve on by being a little more selective as merchants were happy with the crowds the event attracted. They can pick where they want to be now.

People were friendly, helpful, and seemed really happy to see so many people walking the streets of Lake City.

They need bigger and more signage. I would have expected a few banners running across Hwy. 52 – which sees the most traffic passing through the outskirts of Lake City. But I did see a sign on a Captian-D’s welcoming folks to ArtFields – good for them.

Lake City has something some bigger towns and cities are running out of – a lot of empty buildings which can be used for future expansion or development. Something Charleston wishes it had more of. So there is lots of room to grow.

I don’t know how many people came to Lake City for this event or how many registered and voted in the competition. You need those numbers to really show the impact of the event. Hopefully at some point we’ll be offered those hard numbers. Remember it was a first year event – what ever they were – it’s what it was.

Getting 800 entries again next year or even more than that might be harder than you think. The 400 who didn’t make the cut might not be interested in trying again and many of the 400 who did – after seeing what kind of art won the top prizes might not enter again. But I think everyone who made the cut should be happy to return if it wasn’t all about the money. And, remember $50,000 or $25,000 is a lot of money, but it’s not life changing these days – not for most people.

This was a great event and great exposure for many of the artists. Some who didn’t win or didn’t get a lot of votes might find they made even more valuable connections by participating in this event. Plus – lets hope that the 2014 ArtFields will have all new jurors. Having the same folks selecting who gets in and who wins awards would send the wrong message to artists. You want them to think they always have a chance at getting in or even winning a prize.



Here’s some suggestions – take ‘em or leave ‘em.

Make sure the website gives as many details as possible. Give examples and show pictures from the first year of what artists could do – such as: if you want to connect 20 paintings together which are in a series – that can be your “one” entry; if you are a sculptor and want to present a number of works that are related as a series – put them together as you would on site – take one photo of it and submit it as your “one” image; give dimensions of the venues so artists can visualize how big their works can be (it’s hard to imagine that a 10″ x 12″ painting would win the $50,000 top prize – it could, but most likely won’t); the point is – more details are better than less. Artists are different than most folks – which is good, but they don’t see or read things the same way others do. I was told at one point they heard no complaints from artists – believe me I heard plenty. They’ve learned not to bite the hand that might feed them, but they do have complaints.

As I said before – bigger signs and more of them all over Lake City and the areas coming into it.

Make the venue area more compact, with less areas way out on the fringe.

Provide a shuttle service to stop at the four corners of the venue area – get help from the local school district. It was a lot of walking for some folks.

Allow visitors to register to vote in other areas around the venues. Artworks at the HUB where people registered had an advantage. Also the HUB needs restrooms.

The handout that showed people where the venues were should also have a directory to show where each artist’s work could be found. Unfortunately some folks only want to see some people’s work. It’s sad but true.

Get some rolling vendors to offer hotdogs and drinks for folks who don’t want to have a sit down meal or wait in line at a crowded restaurant.

Contact some tour bus companies in larger cities to organize trips to Lake City from larger cities. They’ll probably take on the expense of organizing the trips.

To make the event easier for artists from outside the state to compete with local artists to compete for the People’s Choice award – start an adopt an artist program. Some folks might enjoy having a talented artist from another state stay with them during the festival or for a weekend. It might make an interesting experience for the artists and the community.

And, finally, don’t outsource the operation of this event to anywhere else. Let Lake City develop this event. I’m sure that community has talented folks who can learn to promote this event as well as anyone else can. It’s a learning experience and you know your community better than anyone else.

I’d be happy to expand on any of these points if anyone is interested in listening. And, I imagine the organizers may have already thought of most of these suggestions for improvement.

I know I’m looking forward to next year already and going back to Lake City when the big show isn’t going on to see what the town is like normally.

Now here’s an unfortunate update!

The ArtField’s People’s Choice Award has been suspended.

The following statement (in part) was taken from the ArtField’s official website ( under News:

Award of the Popular Choice prize, which represents the most votes cast by the public, has been suspended.  According to Sue-Ann Gerald Shannon, legal counsel for Lake City Partnership Council, the competition’s sponsor, the initial awardee has been sent notification that his entry, “Warsaw Ghetto 1943,” is ineligible for the award because it did not meet the guidelines and rules of the competition.

Ms. Shannon stated: “The eligibility rules, which were clearly set out from the start, required that the submitted entry be wholly owned by the artist and does not infringe upon the rights of others.  After conducting our due diligence investigation, and consulting with art experts, we determined that the ‘Warsaw Ghetto 1943’ entry was merely a re-colorized reproduction of the iconic photograph depicting German soldiers leading away captured Jews for deportation.  Although some displeasure has been expressed for our not disqualifying this piece earlier, in fairness to all and to maintain the competition’s integrity, we first wanted to be absolutely sure we were on solid footing that the piece failed to comply with the rules.  After careful review, we have disqualified the Warsaw Ghetto piece and we will soon announce the winner of the Popular Choice award.”

Back to Me

This is an unfortunate thing, but the rules are rules. I’m glad ArtFields stands up for artists who create their own works without borrowing the talents of others. Any time this much money is involved – things like this can and will happen.

The May 2013 Issue of Carolina Arts is Now Ready to Download

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013


The May 2013 issue of Carolina Arts is up on our website at ( – all 88 pages of it – a record number of pages. We also had another popular cover last month and I think this one is special too.

We ask that you help us bring the news about the Carolina visual art community to others by spreading the link for the download around to your e-mail lists and posting it on your Facebook page or “sharing” this post. Once people see all that is going on in the visual art community they will spread it around to their lists and on their Facebook pages. We started using Twitter so you can find us at ( Follow us and retweet our postings.

The link is: (

If you would like to get direct notice that our latest issue is ready to be downloaded you can send us an e-mail to ( to be placed on our mailing list.

So download that PDF and dig in – it makes for good reading and shows that you have lots of opportunities to enjoy the visual arts in the Carolinas. And, don’t forget to find a way to thank our advertisers – they make the paper possible.

Thanks – Tom and Linda Starland
Carolina Arts