There is a rhythm to community life that binds us together; ‘back to school’, church, or just the weekly work routine. But things changed in 2020, and we all had to adjust, as events were cancelled, and a new ‘normal’ took their place. But your patience is being rewarded as the Arts Festival of Carrollton returns to the Carrollton Center for the Arts on October 9-10.
Join us for music, fellowship, good food and some of the finest artists in our region. Volunteers and staff have been feverishly working to make this is an event to remember, with comprehensive health and safety measures, this year highlighting the achievements of the differently abled.
Fifty-four artists and 10 different demonstrations/hands-on activities will be there to enjoy. While you wander the tents, you will be serenaded by choirs, bluegrass, jazz, and masters of rare instruments like the haunting melodies of John Riley’s ‘harp’ guitar and the Australian digeridoo.
Take a break inside the Danny Mabry theatre and watch talented dance companies express the joy of movement, especially the inspirational grace of the Full Radius Dance Company that features dancers of different abilities. Local food truck vendors will be on hand for lunch, and favorites you may remember from past Festivals like Mark Abatti the ‘Living Statue’ will be ready for a photo opportunity! Inside the Center, you can enjoy a quiet moment seeing the photographic work in the exhibit ‘Verisimilitude’ and the up-and-coming youth talents of our public-school students.
Even with all the new artists on hand, this Festival will bring back memories of Festivals past in Carrollton; meet up with old friends, make new ones, and commune in the appreciation of our shared cultural values.
Of course, I would be remiss not to mention that many of us have experienced losses this past year, people conspicuous in their absence from our festivities. The Carrollton Artists’ Guild will miss the presence of one of our longtime members, Bowdon native Mr. Leonard McEwen who died this past summer. McEwen awakened to the creative arts late in life following his service in Vietnam. After returning to join the family business of home building, he learned the craft of ceramics informally from local artists like Don McWhorter and Heidi Lewis.
For McEwen, participating with the Artists’ Guild at the annual Festival was as much about marketing his work as it was about sharing his love of education and creativity. A learned polyglot who spoke four languages and ‘a little Japanese’, McEwen also appreciated the outdoors where his keen eye could settle on ancient Indian artifacts, or a turkey ripe for the hunting. Partnering in his tent with colleague and friend Lee Laney the two were a regular fixture at the festival for many years.Mr. McEwen’s work reflected his love for ‘folk art’ and the tent he shared with Lee was always a delightful, convivial, and colorful stop.
McEwen was known for his bowls and urns decorated in a glaze process of his own development using latex and wax, but also for his charitable nature. He taught Laney that for every pot he made, he had to make one to give away, which they often did at the annual Empty Bowls benefit. In recent years, Laney and McEwen collaborated on pieces that feature elements of both of their self-taught styles. Between them, Laney estimates they must have made some 2,000 pieces since beginning their working friendship in 2006. Remembering his longtime artistic partner, Laney noted that McEwen was delighted to be invited to exhibit at events like Finster Fest in Summerville, Georgia that celebrates the Outsider art legacy of Georgia’s own Reverend Howard Finster, whom McEwen revered.
But if you go to find a face jug by Mr. McEwen, you will be disappointed, as he felt the form was overdone and wouldn’t offer him the chance to express his own authentic voice. There will be some his final collaborative pieces at the festival to collect this year, so if you haven’t added one to your collection now is the time. While his presence will be sorely missed, McEwen’s legacy of sharing art with the community and inspiring folks to try their hand at creative exploration, lives on.