April’s Featured Year of the Rural Arts Event: ArtFields Lake City, South Carolina

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By Savannah Barrett

In its second year, ArtFields is a unique Arts Competition and Celebration held in Lake City, South Carolina, a rural agricultural hub once renowned for the largest bean market in America. The town of 6,675 is expected to attract more than 20,000 people between April 25 and May 4, 2014. The 10-day family friendly event features an Art Competition with pieces from emerging and established artists from 12 Southeastern states, public art, live music, Before I Die Wall, delicious Southern foods, a Color Me ArtFields 5K, art workshops, a Portrait Contest and more. ArtFields distributes more than $100,000 in cash prizes through a combination of juried and crowd sourced awards, including the largest cash prize of any art contest in the Southeast.

ArtFields Plein Air Competition

ArtFields Plein Air Competition

With a mission to improve the quality of life and promote the well-being of the Lake City community, ArtFields has selected 400+ artists to exhibit in historic Lake City businesses. Many venues help to activate downtown businesses, yet exhibition spaces vary from outdoor spaces and vacant storefronts re-imagined through the eyes of southern artists, including a former mercantile and a barbershop.

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ArtFields 2013 attendees at a gallery exhibit

The annual event is an initiative of the Lake City Partnership Council conceived to honor Lake City’s rich cultural and agricultural history and spur tourism and economic vitality. The inaugural event attracted 22,000 visitors and generated over $5.4 million dollars of economic activity, including a direct output of more than $3.5 million, and indirect and induced impacts of $1.8 million. The ArtFields economic impact report calculated the overall impact of the 10-day event as commeasuring 67 FTE jobs in the region. The festival employs an event staff for months leading up to the convening, and contracts local construction teams in various town improvement projects. 2013 venue operator Clark Ward of Comfort and Style Shoes testified to the substantial increase in traffic through his store, reporting his “largest sales since I opened in 2008, quadrupling my average sales for that week (75% increase).”

ArtFields Mural in progress during the 10-day arts festival

The festival strives to leave a lasting impression on the Lake City region, and to impress Lake City upon participating artists:

  • Artfields commissioned four public art installations from Carolina artists in 2013; hosts an exhibition of student artwork; and is participating in the INSIDE OUT Project-a worldwide portrait photography exhibit with a local spin by featuring the portraits of 55 Lake City venue operators
  • The Artfields Portrait Contest explores the intersection of art and agriculture by featuring local farmers as the subjects in a high-speed paint-off with a $1,000 cash prize; and two Plein Air workshops provide on-location instruction at the Imperial Tobacco Building and the Moore Farms Botanical Garden.

Public participation opportunities include a “Before I Die” Wall, a kids Chalk-‘N-Talk sidewalk artmaking activity, and is pairing 2013 People’s Choice Award winner Kirkland Smith with attendees in a community arts project creating a Community Mandala from disposable materials.  Smith’s studio work will be on display alongside 2013 ArtFields Art Competition winners Jim Arendt and Leanna Knapp at the Jones-Carter Gallery during the 2013 Winners’ Gallery. Alongside free weekend concerts in on The Green, ArtFields will feature performances by area student musicians from local K-12 schools and universities during the opening night Artwalk on April 25.

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ArtFields “Before I Die” public art participation project

True to the agricultural legacy of the region, several events celebrate the local farming economy. Each weekend the ArtFields Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market offers the opportunity to purchase the best Carolina-made artisan products ranging from homemade soaps and specialty jams to woodcrafts, ceramics, and SC-grown produce. Emmy-winning ETV show Making it Grow will tape a discussion of farm and garden topics in front of a live audience on April 26, and a Fields to Fork Dinner brings together locally-sourced food and entertainment through a three-course dinner on May 1.

For more information about ArtFields and Lake City, South Carolina please visit: http://www.artfieldssc.org/. Most activities are free and ticketed events start at $15. Free parking and shuttle services are available throughout town. Participants must register in Lake City to vote in the Art Competition.

Please mark your calendars for this fantastic event, check out the ArtFields story on the Atlas of Rural Arts and Culture, and report back to us at Art of the Rural to tell us about your experience! Please use the social media hash tag #ruralarts in any social media posts from the event.

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THE YEAR OF THE RURAL ARTS is a biennial program of events, conversations, and online features celebrating the diverse, vital ways in which rural arts and culture contribute to American life. The Year is coordinated by Art of the Rural and organized by a collective of individuals, organizations, and communities from rural and urban locales across the nation.

The inaugural Year is a collaborative, grassroots effort designed to build steam over the course of 2014. To present a more equitable representation and a more comprehensive narrative of rural arts in culture, all online features will be freely shared across websites and social media. For more information on the Year of the Rural Arts, visit: www.artoftherural.org.