Like basketball teams scrambling to the Final Four, the last weekend in March was hectic for the Mooresville Arts. Members greeted each other and hung paintings throughout the Depot in preparation for their 60th anniversary celebration.
They’ve accomplished a great deal since an informal group met in the basement of the War Memorial to paint and exchange ideas in 1955. Those six artists – John McConnell, Lucille Lipe, Verla Williford, Leonard Ham, Lonnie Cox and Augustine Brown – took a class with Ralph Herring, a well-known portrait artist who lived in Winston-Salem.
Herring was courting his future wife in Mooresville and teaching in surrounding towns.
“They got wind of the fact that I was coming to Mooresville pretty regularly so they asked me to teach the group,” Herring, 87, said.
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He held classes in a dentist’s home, bank, the building where Epic Chophouse now stands, and the McNeely Building, wherever the painters could find a place.
Soon others joined and formed Mooresville Artists Guild. Later they moved to the Depot, 103 W. Center Ave.
“Mooresville Artists Guild has come a long way in 60 years from meeting in the basement in the War Memorial to having a building where we’re trying to fund renovations,” co-chairman Sandie Bell said.
Jessica DeHart, co-chairman, described MAG as “a growing hub in the Mooresville, Lake Norman and Charlotte area.” Membership has increased to 200. In 2013, Guild members changed the name to Mooresville Arts.
“We want to establish ourselves as an art center in Mooresville and the Lake Norman community,” DeHart said.
To celebrate their longevity, members have organized three exhibits that represent a continuum of work from the beginning to the present. Art from founding and early members is showcased in one gallery. In many instances, family and friends, as well as art owners, have loaned pieces.
Paintings by the open-studio group hang in an adjacent gallery. Like their forerunners, these artists meet once a week to paint and share ideas.
“It’s important for us to have the open studio group because that’s pretty much our history in a nutshell, the foundation of how Mooresville Arts started,” DeHart said.
The members’ exhibit begins in the third gallery and spills over into the warehouse.
“This show has a slightly different scope to it because we’re calling it ‘Bring in your favorite,’ the one that you won an award for or the one that you like,” DeHart said. “Since we’re celebrating 60 years, it makes sense not to limit the show.”
In addition to the exhibits, there are other activities. The official kickoff begins 10 a.m. April 9 with a ribbon cutting sponsored by the Mooresville-South Iredell Chamber of Commerce.
Since the Depot is full, artists are moving to the sidewalk. On April 17, Mooresville Arts is hosting an art sale and family night. Paintings, pottery and woodworking will be available.
Late afternoon and early evening activities such as face painting will cater to families.
But the anniversary party, the largest event, is April 18. While munching heavy hors d’oeuvres from local restaurants, visitors can view art, dance to live music by the Motel Soap Band and vie for door prizes. Of course, there’ll be cake at the ticketed celebration.
“We’re looking forward to it,” DeHart said.
Sandra Phillips is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Sandra? Email her at email@example.com.
Want to go?
The Mooresville Arts sidewalk sale is noon-7 p.m. April 17. Family night begins at 4 p.m. Both events are free.
Tickets for the party from 6-10 p.m. April 18 are $25 each. They’re available through PayPal on the Mooresville Arts website – www.magart.org – or at the Depot.