Inclement weather moved out of the area just in time last week, giving patrons and vendors at the sixth annual Midway Art Festival a sunny Saturday on which to peruse and display crafts. A variety of artists from Midway to neighboring Richmond Hill exhibited work including wildlife photography, woven baskets, sketches and wood carvings.
The event, held on the grounds of the Midway Gallery, was organized by gallery owner Tina Eberlein.
Many of the artists have been honing their artistic skills for as long as they can remember while others recently discovered their creative streaks but have been quick to channel it into new careers.
Sitting under the shade of a large oak tree, ceramics artist August Kroken displayed intricately designed colored vases, bowls and plates on tables. The Richmond Hill resident said the Midway Arts Fest was her first show.
“I started a year and a half ago,” she said. “I was always interested in it and as soon as I tried it, I became addicted and thought, ‘I need to keep doing this.’”
Kroken formed Copper Tree Pottery and began creating pieces to showcase at the art fest and on her Facebook page. She said she wants to develop her talent and finish enough pieces to start selling her products at more events. Kroken, who said she still considers herself a novice, likes modern and classic designs. Even when creating small pieces, the artist said it takes anywhere from two to three hours from start to finish. Her recent venture into the art world inspired her to craft more pieces so she can develop a website and sell things online.
On the opposite side of the festival, Loretta Mugrade sat under her tent. With a clean canvas and pencil in hand, she began to sketch a portrait of a young girl from a photograph provided to her. Mugrade said she’s been sketching and painting since she was 6 years old. A few years ago, she said, she started painting images that had more meaning. As an example, she pointed to a painting of the United States that she did in 2008. Inside the outline of the nation, several images depicted the real estate tumble, recession woes and even the Sept. 11 terror attack on the Twin Towers. The drawing was surrounded by swirling water on the edges.
“It was drawn to show all the turmoil the country was in,” Mugrade said. She said she studied art for a year while attending Catholic school but had no other formal training. She said art helped her through a few rough periods of her life. Mugrade pointed to a pencil sketching she titled “Dancing into Life.” The pictured depicted a ballerina in a split with her face turned down toward her leg and her arms outstretched to the left and right. Next to her hands, drawn faces represent tragedy and comedy.
“She hides her head in shame,” Mugrade said. “But her forward hand is choosing life over death.”
Near the entrance of the Midway Gallery, Flora and Mike Carter displayed their bird woodcarvings. The couple can produce as many a six bird carvings a day and have been doing so for 27 years. They create the carvings from reclaimed cypress.
“They are about 125 years old,” Mike Carter said of the pieces of wood. “I get them from people who tear down old buildings and from people who are re-milling beams when they remodel houses.”
Julie M. Farris relocated to Georgia from Missouri a few years ago and although she has dabbled in photography since high school, she said her move to Georgia re-ignited her passion.
“I became more inspired when I moved to Coastal Georgia with all the beautiful nature and wildlife around here,” she said. Life-size prints of swans, plants and other critters she found in the wild surrounded her table.
“I’ve always loved nature and the outdoors; it’s just perfection,” Farris said. “I like capturing moments in nature that are just so fleeting to the naked eye. It’s nice to capture and preserve them.”
One artist said he attended the festival to further his mission of educating people about and preserving the Gullah Geechee culture in Liberty County. Gregory Grant is a basket sewer who displays much of his work at the Gullah Geechee Cultural Center in Riceboro.
“This craft is probably one if not the oldest of the surviving crafts to come from Africa to survive the middle passage,” he said. “It’s a continuation of that legacy. If you look at our baskets here in Gullah land and you go to Eastern or Western Africa, all the designs of the baskets are identical. My baskets are working baskets. If an ancestor were to return today and look at one of my baskets, they would know exactly what it could be used for.”
Grant has been sewing baskets for five years and said he learned the craft from Jerome Dixon of Sapelo. He said Dixon learned the craft from another Sapelo resident, Allen Green, who is considered the last of the old-time basket makers.
“I call myself the fourth generation of Mr. Green’s legacy,” Grant said.