A tiny, tired, old tobacco town already was starting to transform before ArtFields came along two years ago, but Lake City still was somewhat of a blank canvas.
Now that ArtFields III is underway, look at Lake City now. Seriously. Go there. If you’ve never gone, you won’t believe your eyes. If you’ve been there previously, you won’t believe your eyes.
What’s new? The boutique hotel that was under construction last year on Main Street is open now, and it is a striking addition to a charming, bustling downtown.
What’s old? The restored W.A. McClam Livery Stables, the Bean Market, the Jones-Carter Gallery that used to be a feed-and-seed store, the ROB (Ragsdale Old Building) that formerly was a tobacco warehouse, the Whitehead Infirmary and … we could go on and on.
The Elegant Bee is old and new. It’s a period furniture and design boutique on Sauls Street that Karen Fowler recently opened in a building once owned by her grandfather.
Fowler is one of the visionaries who started ArtFields, but she stepped down as the executive director after last year’s event and now is experiencing the festivities as a merchant. She epitomizes the energy and can-do spirit of Lake City people. Some impressive paintings that are entered in the 2015 competition hang on her shop’s walls.
Merchants are what this extravaganza is all about. Making this the truest of community events, owners have bought in to the fact that their small businesses are on display while they display art. Art is on display at 39 venues, almost all of which are within walking distance of each other. The dividend is big. The economic impact of the inaugural ArtFields was estimated at $5.4 million.
ArtFields isn’t just an event for art lovers. Art likers can appreciate the works, too, and lovers and likers alike can vote for their favorite entries and enjoy opportunities to interact with the artists. If you appreciate performing arts, too, you might be interested in the Florence Symphony Orchestra’s performance at 5 p.m. today at the bucolic Moore Farms Botanical Gardens.
ArtFields is a celebration of artists from the Southeast, a neglected region filled with talented individuals who come from 12 states to enjoy getting back in touch with their grassroots. Approximately 800 pieces of art were submitted for the inaugural ArtFields. Roughly 1,200 pieces were submitted this year. The number of pieces accepted has remained at approximately 400.
Bring your debit and credit cards. Much of the art is for sale, and there are some big price tags on some of the art.
Don’t forget, this is a competition. Big prize money is at stake. Winners will divide $110,000.
But the big winner is Lake City.
Photo by Fred Salley, Meade Agency