This weekend’s Kings Drive Art Walk has a tough act to follow. Last year’s festival, blessed by sunny weather, drew 36,000 people to gaze at fine arts and fine crafts along Little Sugar Creek Greenway. The turnout was the biggest the young street fair has ever attracted.
Yet the fifth annual festival by Festival in the Park, which will bring 93 artists to show off their creations Saturday and Sunday, isn’t leaving success up to Mother Nature.
For for the first time, the festival will close off the Pearl Park Way bridge and put up a stage to host performances by Charlotte’s Jazz Arts Initiative. Professional and student musicians, including veteran drummer Ocie Davis, will play each day from 11:15 a.m. until the festival’s close.
“It’s a very expensive step to rent a stage, rent generators and set all that up. Now that we’re five years into (the festival), we’ve reached the point we can make the investment,” board member Frank Whitney says.
The sounds will float out across booths full of paintings, pottery, jewelry, sculpture and other works lining the greenway from Morehead Street north to Midtown Park. About half the artists displaying their works will be first-time exhibitors at the Art Walk. The festival intentionally brings a healthy proportion of newcomers each year, Whitney says, to help it keep from becoming a been-there, done-that affair.
Obayana B. Ajanaku, a self-taught metalsmith from Georgia, will bring jewelry influenced by studies of African culture that he began while working on a recycling project with young people in the 1970s. Watching his grandmother make quilts when he was a boy also influenced him.
“His jewelry is beautiful, dynamic and energetic,” Whitney says.
Bob and Patti Stern, Ohio artists who turn salvaged barn siding, windows from 19th- and early 20th-century homes and other antique materials into works ranging from key holders to furniture. Some of their latest creations are curio cabinets that mimic the human form – a twist on the idea of the grandfather clock.
Scott McCulloch, a metalsmith who creates furniture, sculptures and lamps. Trained at the College of Charleston and Winthrop University, he was an affiliate artist at the McColl Center for Art + Innovation.
Brian Yung, a watercolorist from Virginia. A native of Hong Kong, he was influenced by mountains, grasslands, beaches and other vistas he beheld visiting China and Mongolia. He now studies birds and nature, aiming to depict them realistically.
Yung’s international travels, Whitney says, helped commend him to a festival that aims for diversity in everything from artists and genres to the price range of the works on display.
“You can come in and buy something easily under $50. And you could spend several thousand dollars for something,” Whitney said. “Some of these artists come in and sell one piece, and they’ve made their show.”
Thanks to word of mouth among happy artists, this year’s festival attracted more applications than any of its predecessors, Whitney says. Because the Art Walk already brings in as many exhibitors as its stretch of the Greenway can hold, it can go for higher-quality art each year.
The festival’s success, Whitney says, is just one tribute to the wisdom of tearing away the concrete and asphalt that used to cover Little Sugar Creek.
“Now it’s a natural, living creek,” he says. “The birds have returned, and there are fish in the creek. It’s really something.”
This story was produced as part of the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance.
Kings Drive Art Walk
Ninety-three artists will display paintings, drawings, pottery, jewelry, sculpture and other works.
When: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Little Sugar Creek Greenway from Morehead Street to Midtown Park.