ARTFIELDS, THE TRANSFORMATION OF A SOUTHERN TOWN INTO AN ART DESTINATION
THE INAUGURAL ARTFIELDS, A TEN-DAY ART FESTIVAL HELD IN APRIL 2013 IN LAKE CITY, SOUTH CAROLINA, WAS JUST THE BEGINNING! THE TOWN OF LAKE CITY IS NOW ESTABLISHING A STRONG ARTISTIC IDENTITY TO BRING ECONOMIC REVIVAL AND CULTURAL RECOGNITION TO A COMMUNITY RICH IN THE HISTORY OF THE SOUTH. FIRST CLAIMED BY SETTLERS FROM SCOTLAND AND IRELAND IN 1734, LAKE CITY HAS GROWN AND THRIVED DURING ITS NEARLY 300 YEAR HISTORY AS AN AGRICULTURAL HUB FOR THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA. BY 1936, LAKE CITY ALSO SUPPORTED THE LARGEST BEAN MARKET OF ITS KIND IN THE WORLD AS AGRICULTURE CONTINUED TO DEFINE THE AREA. THANKS TO THE INNOVATIVE CONCEPT OF ARTFIELDS AND THE COMMITMENT OF ITS FOUNDER AND SOUTH CAROLINIAN, DARLA MOORE, AND THE LAKE CITY PARTNERSHIP COUNCIL, LAKE CITY IS REGAINING ITS ECONOMY STRENGTH AND RAPIDLY BECOMING A LIVELY CENTER FOR ARTISTIC ENDEAVORS FOR THE ENTIRE SOUTHEAST.
ARTFIELDS IS NOW ACCEPTING SUBMISSIONS FOR THE NEXT ART FESTIVAL IN APRIL 2014, RANGING FROM THE MORE TRADITIONAL FORMS OF PAINTING, DRAWING AND SCULPTURE TO INSTALLATION ART, VIDEO AND PHOTOGRAPHY. DURING THE FESTIVAL, FROM APRIL 25, 2014 TO MAY 4, 2014. ARTFIELDS WILL AWARD A GENEROUS $100,000 IN CASH PRIZES TO ARTISTS FROM ACROSS THE SOUTHEAST SELECTED BY A JURY THAT INCLUDES AN IMPRESSIVE ROSTER OF MUSEUM CURATORS AND ART PROFESSIONALS AS WELL AS BY THOSE WHO ATTEND THE EVENT.
TODAY, ROBERT BOCKMAN, JR., COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST FOR ARTFIELDS, WILL PROVIDE US WITH THE DETAILS OF THE 2013 FESTIVAL – FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN ATTENDING NEXT SPRING AND FOR COMMUNITIES EVERYWHERE THAT WANT A UNIQUE WAY TO SUPPORT THE TOWNS THEY LOVE AND THEIR AMERICAN HERITAGE.
ROB, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE BLOG.
WHAT IS ARTFIELDS AND HOW WAS IT CONCEIVED?
ArtFields was originally conceived as an economic engine and vessel for cultural development for Lake City, South Carolina, drawing in tourists and visitors from across the Southeast and creating a direct impact upon the local economy and creative culture. As we planned ArtFields, it became something much larger—became, in fact, the largest arts competition in the Southeast, with a total prize payout of $100,000 awarded to artists from across eleven Southeastern states.
HOW DID YOU PLAN THIS EVENT? WHEN DID THE PLANNING START? HOW DID YOU FORM A COMMITTEE TO ORGANIZE SUCH A MONUMENTAL AND COMPLEX UNDERTAKING?
We were lucky in the organizational process of ArtFields to have a dedicated team of directors, educators, and organizers, as well as outside planning teams, who, through collaborative efforts with local organizations, including the City of Lake City and the local Chamber of Commerce, were able to make the necessary infrastructure repairs and technical developments. We began planning an arts festival in late 2011, and in 2012 began full-time planning for what we decided to call ArtFields, thus tying our agricultural history into our dedication to artistic expression. The foundation of ArtFields is our ArtFields team: director Karen Fowler, Sharon Askins, Carla Angus, Taronda Jordan, and Carlie Lynch, as well as our team of event and cultural coordinators, headed by Arts and Cultural Relations Director, Erin Glaze Nathanson. In addition, we drew directly from the community for our volunteers and venues; ArtFields has, since its inception, been about community, about bringing art to Lake City organically through the efforts of Lake City’s citizens.
WHERE IS LAKE CITY AND WHAT IS ITS HISTORY AND HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE PROFILE OF THE TOWN, ITS AGRICULTURAL HISTORY, ITS CURRENT ECONOMY AND BUSINESS?
Located thirty minutes from Florence and an hour and a half from both Columbia and Charleston, Lake City has long been an important stopping place for travelers and transit, from tourists to Myrtle Beach to the Atlantic Coastline Railroad, whose agricultural freight both stopped and originated in Lake City. Lake City has always been a market community, with our primary crops traditionally being beans, tobacco, and strawberries; at one time, Lake City’s bean market was the largest market of its kind in the United States. Now, we celebrate our agricultural history through our connection to our past: we have renovated the old Bean Market, and now use it as a community gathering space, we have dedicated our efforts to the creation of a downtown historical district, and we have worked with local historians and educators to ensure that Lake City’s past is as meaningful to us as its future. In the last several decades, as agriculture became more monolithic and less locally-sourced, Lake City’s economy suffered; our retail profile dried up and our trade area began leaking revenue at a rate we considered unacceptable. That is part of the Lake City Partnership Council’s mission: to address this leakage, and ensure the success of our locally-owned businesses. We have already seen the economic impact of ArtFields, and have worked to make our Main Street welcoming and well-populated, with everything from upscale clothing boutiques and restaurants to traditional Southern cooking kitchens, all displayed within our fantastically preserved architecture, which dates back to the 1910s, and whose integrity has been preserved through the creation of the Lake City Historical District.
I KNOW THAT THE BUSINESSES IN LAKE CITY OPENED THEIR DOORS TO THIS PROJECT AND ARTWORKS WERE DISPLAYED IN EACH OF THE STORES AND THROUGHOUT LAKE CITY. WHAT DID THAT INCLUDE? HOW DID IT INTEGRATE WITH THE EXISTING SETTINGS AND MERCHANDISE? WERE THE STORES OPEN SPECIAL HOURS TO ACCOMMODATE THE EXHIBITIONS?
We are exceedingly lucky to have flexible, helpful businesses on our Main Street; they know that ArtFields benefits not just the town as a whole, but their individual businesses as well. Thus, while ArtFields did ask that businesses remain open for artwork viewing from 10 am to 6 pm most of the ten-day period, our businesses understood that this would mean more customers coming through the doors and a great chance to publicize their own business. The response back from our venues has been fantastic; they were very pleased by the customers who came to view art and stayed to shop. We were also lucky to have such a phenomenally diverse Main Street retail profile—from our boutique shops and secondhand clothing stores to our brand-new restaurants and bakeries, Lake City truly is developing a forward-focused and varied shopping district within the historic downtown area.
ARTISTS WERE SELECTED FROM ACROSS THE ENTIRE SOUTHEAST. HOW DID THEY HEAR ABOUT THE PROJECT? HOW DID THEY PRESENT THEIR WORKS FOR CONSIDERATION? WERE THERE LIMITATIONS IN TERMS OF SUBJECT, STYLE, AND SCALE? As the Southeast’s largest arts competition, we wanted ArtFields to represent the gamut of styles, media, and conceptual thought. Thus, we placed no limitations on the artists’ creative visions, other than the basic strictures of the ArtFields rules, and they delivered wonderful works, from large-scale installation pieces to found-media sculptures to paintings, all thematically distinct. This openness to inspiration resulted in artists who were extremely excited to display unique works with us; we were thrilled by this. Lake City has always stood for careful cultivation of natural beauty in its agricultural history, and we were just as determined to match this in our cultural development. Our ArtFields team and media contacts got the word out through targeted advertising in artistic communities, print media, and public relations blitzes in local and Southeastern markets. The response was phenomenal; of the twelve Southeastern states, eleven states were represented in the 775 works of art we received for initial qualification.
AS SUBMISSIONS ARE CURRENTLY BEING ACCEPTED BY ARTFIELDS FOR THE FESTIVAL SCHEDULED NEXT APRIL 25 – MAY 4, IN THE NEXT BLOG, WE WILL DISCUSS THE SELECTION PROCESS, THE SCOPE OF THE ARTWORKS THEMSELVES, AND THE IMPACT THAT 2013 ARTFIELDS HAD NOT ONLY ON THE TOWN OF LAKE CITY BUT AS A BENCHMARK FOR FESTIVALS OF THIS KIND. IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, EITHER PRACTICAL OR MORE GENERAL,WE WELCOME THE OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE A DIALOGUE WITH YOU.