AN ARTS INITIATIVE IN THE FARMING TOWN OF LAKE CITY, SOUTH CAROLINA

by leslierankowfinearts

ArtFieldsHUB

FOR TEN DAYS LAST  APRIL, THE INAUGURAL ARTFIELDS WAS LAUNCHED AND THE RURAL TOBACCO TOWN OF  LAKE CITY, SOUTH CAROLINA, TRANSFORMED INTO A CULTURAL DESTINATION.  ARTFIELDS FEATURED THE WORK OF OVER 400 ARTISTS IN BOTH PUBLIC VENUES THROUGHOUT THE TOWN AND IN ALL OF ITS BUSINESS LOCATIONS. THE ARTFIELDS TEAM, THE COMMUNITY OF LAKE CITY AND ITS BUSINESS OWNERS RALLIED THEIR CONSIDERABLE FORCES TO CREATE A TEN-DAY CELEBRATION OF THE ART, CULTURE AND CUISINE OF THE SOUTHEAST.  THE ATTENDANCE WAS OVERWHELMING, WITH VISITORS FROM AS FAR AWAY AS SEATTLE, WASHINGTON.  INITIATED BY  LAKE CITY RESIDENT, FINANCIER AND COLLECTOR, DARLA MOORE, THIS VISIONARY EVENT INITIATES HER  MISSION TO REVITALIZE HER HOME TOWN  AND SERVES AS A MODEL FOR OTHER COMMUNITIES   WHO WISH TO DO THE SAME. http://www.artfieldssc.org/news/

IN TODAY’S BLOG, WE WILL EXPLORE THE SCOPE AND SCALE OF THIS PROJECT, ITS CONCEPTION AND ITS FIRST ART FEST, THE NEXT TO BE HELD FROM APRIL 25 – MAY 4, 2014.  I ANTICIPATE THE EVENT WITH GREAT ENTHUSIASM AND ENCOURAGE EVERYONE TO VISIT. THE PEOPLE OF LAKE TOWN ARE WARM AND FRIENDLY AND EPITOMIZE THE SPIRIT OF SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY.

DARLA, HOW DID YOU CONCEIVE OF THE PROJECT? ARE THERE OTHER MODELS THAT INSPIRED ITS CONCEPTION?

 The impact an arts festival can have on a town is huge and well-documented, so as we began our revitalization efforts in Lake City, we knew an arts competition was an option. In planning ArtFields, we studied the results similarly-sized and -structured arts festivals have had on their host towns’ local economies, from ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan to the traveling Art Basel exhibition. One of my colleagues brought the idea of ArtFields to us by informing us of art competition that is held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, called “ArtPrize.” The sponsor of this effort is one of the members of the Amway family who wanted to expose his community to art. We thought that was great goal, but we were truly impressed by the attendant economic potential and tailored an “Art Prize” event to our circumstances. We took the lessons we had learned and created ArtFields, which features a uniquely Southern and community-focused attitude towards the creation and display of art, emphasizing the benefits of the climate and culture of South Carolina. The message is: look around you for other successes. There is basically nothing new under the sun; your power then is in how you interpret it.

WHAT AREAS OF THE ECONOMY, EDUCATION AND THE ENVIRONMENT WILL ARTFIELDS NURTURE AND SUPPORT AND IN WHAT WAYS?

Thus far, ArtFields has had the most immediate impact on our local retailers; many visitors to Lake City stopped by our boutiques and gift stores for souvenirs and supplies and gave us wonderful feedback about the friendliness and welcoming spirit of our community. Our local educational system is also part of ArtFields; not only do the Lake City Partnership Council and our local sponsors host ArtFields jr. for our students, but opportunities offered for Florence School District students extend beyond participation in the competition and include events and field trips. In addition, the opportunity to compete for $100,000 in prizes has encouraged students from Francis Marion University, the College of Charleston, and other schools in the Southeast to compete in ArtFields; part of ArtFields is the cultivation of the arts through planning for the future, and the presence of young artists—ranging from elementary school students through college graduates—emphasizes the fact that we’re on the right track.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE IT WILL ACCOMPLISH FOR LAKE CITY SPECIFICALLY AND FOR SOUTH CAROLINA IN GENERAL?

Generally speaking, the goal of ArtFields is to improve Lake City’s economy through the creation of new jobs, new tourism opportunities, and new infrastructure. More specifically, ArtFields brought financial support to local merchants, encouragement for local artists (and artists from ten other states), and entertainment for over 20,000 visitors and residents. Our goals in the coming years are to ramp up the impact of ArtFields exponentially across the board—from the number of visitors to the number of artists submitting works—and we can’t wait to see how much the festival grows. As it does, it will continue to spread the message of ArtFields—that is, economic and cultural growth through community engagement—across South Carolina and the entire Southeast.

LakeCityDT

WHAT WAS THE RESPONSE TO THE FIRST “ARTFEST”? ARE YOU PLANNING TO HOLD THIS EVENT ANNUALLY AND WHAT EXPANSION OR CHANGES MIGHT YOU MAKE? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MORE FREQUENT EVENTS THAT ART FIELDS SPONSORS TO CONTINUE THE MOMENTUM OF ITS VERY SUCCESSFUL LAUNCH?

The response—from our community, from our visitors, and from the media—was fantastic. We had over 20,000 visitors, including four hundred artists and representatives of the media, come to Lake City to view works of art from across the Southeast, and they went away with a totally new impression of Lake City, of the advances we’ve made as a community and, most importantly, of our ingrained dedication to improving our town. We’re looking forward to tapping into this new excitement as we plan ArtFields 2014; it is our plan to host ArtFields every year in Lake City, and consistently expand the scope of the festival, both geographically and in terms of the cultural impact it will have on the Pee Dee and the Southeast as a whole. We are incredibly grateful for the amount of effort that our local organizations, residents, and artists have dedicated to the success of ArtFields, and hope to use the renewed excitement ArtFields has sown in the community to continue to revitalize Lake City economically and culturally. We have events throughout the year to demonstrate the impact ArtFields has had, including our thank-you concert and party in August and our talks about the festival with local organizations, to better convey to Lake City and South Carolina what ArtFields has done and will do for our town in the future.

WHAT IS YOUR IDEAL VISION FOR LAKE CITY AND FOR SOUTH CAROLINA?

The revitalization effort in Lake City only succeeds—and will only succeed—through collaboration and investment; that is, only by working with our local governance and organizations, as well as our citizens, can we create a sustainable town whose dedication to improvement is only matched by its opportunities. Ideally, my vision of Lake City is one that perfectly fuses the vibrant Lake City of the past—the Lake City in which I grew up—with the thoughtful and healthy Lake City that I see in our future. Whether it’s in new industries and entrepreneurship opportunities or cultural and artistic expression, I know Lake City will survive and continue to grow, just as we have always done. 

IN OUR NEXT BLOG, ROB BOCKMAN, COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST FOR THE LAKE CITY PARTNERSHIP COUNCIL , WILL INFORM US  OF THE SCALE AND SCOPE OF  THE ARTFIELDS FESTIVAL  THAT ENCOMPASSED SUBMISSIONS OF ART FROM ACROSS THE SOUTHEAST, JURIED EXHIBITIONS, HONORS AND AWARDS, A FILM FESTIVAL, INSTALLATION ART AND A COMMUNITY MURAL, TO NAME JUST A FEW,  THAT MADE THE FIRST ARTFIELDS EVENT SUCH A SUCCESS.

ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS ARE VERY WELCOME!