Festival painters take art in the park to heart

Two Charlotte artists will finish a painting today in front of curious onlookers at Festival in the Park, the annual four-day arts fest in Freedom Park. Talk about public art.

Jerry Kirk and Frank Haas began work on the two-panel festival-inspired piece on Thursday, opening day.

Kirk and Haas are painting on a hilltop overlooking the park, nestled between Dilworth and Myers Park, and the festival. The amphitheater, lake and fountain are in front of them. The elephant ear stand is also in clear sight.

“We're just having a great time,” Kirk said.

Festival in the Park has been a Charlotte tradition since 1964. It showcases artwork of about 150 artists and crafts people. About 50 artists are included on an artists' walk along the park's lake and are entered into a juried pool. Plus, there are tents devoted to the artwork of students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

New this year: Festival organizers commissioned Kirk and Haas to do a panoramic painting overlooking the festival.

“The festival is continuing to find creative and interactive ways to engage festival-goers into seeking out the value of art,” said Dave Dalton, festival board chairman.

The painting, which measures 5 feet by 8 feet, will eventually hang in the festival's offices. But for the next year, the artists have requested that it be displayed someplace where the public can see it.

The artists said they knew their styles would mesh. Kirk is the more figurative one, while Haas is more about landscapes.

Saturday under a clear blue sky, people stopped to watch.

“The kids are real excited,” Haas said.

Indeed, around lunchtime Saturday, Richard O'Halloran, 5, exclaimed, “I'm on there.” He proudly pointed to a small image in the foreground. Mom Tricia Noble, who grew up in Charlotte and has been going to the festival for 35 years, had a hard time tearing her son away to walk around the park. She promised they'd all – Richard's twin sister Catherine was also there – check back later on the artists' progress.