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Third annual Arts in the Middle ‘is a winner’

by Hank Roden 

“What do you think of all this?” asked the visitor. 

“Well, fine art, blue skies, soft breeze, sounds of a wonderful singing voice and violin . . . what more could anyone want?” was the answer. Actually, he may have needed more: help devising an explanation to his wife as to why he just spent $1,000 for a wood sculpture of a fish.

Attracted by a very bright arrangement of flowers, two women approached a small tent in hunt of a special thirst quencher—champagne. “We’re from Baltimore” said one. “It’s both our 48th birthdays and we’d both like champagne.” They really liked it, returning four times amid strolls under big oaks, visiting with artists, and picking up gifts for themselves and friends.

Said a smiling Deltaville woman, “I have five friends from Richmond visiting for the day. I was a little nervous, as I hadn’t been to this show before. Well we loved it. Most of us bought from at least one artist. Afterwards, we had lunch in the village. Then, naturally, we went clothes shopping. We’ll be back.”

These chats took place June 3-4 during the 3rd annual Arts in the Middle (AIM) fine arts festival at Hewick Plantation on Old Virginia Street near Urbanna. An estimated 1,500 visitors, 85 tents with offerings from out-of-town artists, 17 professional musicians, local artists, student artists, and more than 90 Middle Peninsula volunteers helped run the show.

The trick for a successful outdoor art show is inducing artists from scores to hundreds of miles away (from Florida to Connecticut in this case) to pack up and cast their fate to your wind, which is spreading the word through the media to lovers of art to come and enjoy and buy art.

Also attracted are lovers of a grand picnic, which is fine, as they may well support the famous “starving artists” and enjoy the local towns. Add tasty food on site or nearby, various beverages, great music, and perfect weather, which was ideal this year. Artists are also very much attracted by where they pitch their tents—on pavement under a broiling sun makes a tough few days painful. Fortunately, there are experienced art show people in AIM, so it was made easy for artists to set up their work for display, and volunteers were constantly around to lend a hand.

Various draws are needed when a show is not in a city or other relatively highly-visited area such as Williamsburg or Virginia Beach. And then the energy and time saving ease of being able to put your car or trailer up to the tent sites. Oh, how much that means after a long drive or the end of a show.

Indeed the things every artist praised at AIM’s three shows are the “care and feeding” by volunteers and Hewick Plantation’s lovely, shady location. “Oh, my, the cool shade of the big oaks,” explained a painter. “There is also just the wonderful look of the long path dotted with white tents between the trees. Please say ‘thank you’ to the family for allowing us here.”

In a large central tent, music was played at one end as food was served at the other. Twenty tables allowed a constantly changing crowd to relax and refresh themselves. For visitors intimidated by the long lane, golf carts on loan from Bethpage Camp-Resort, and driven by Kiwanians, shuttled them to or from the parking lot or wherever they needed to go. One artist energetically said her parents arrived at the show with a handicapped plate on their car. “As soon as they parked there was a cart ready to take them over to the artists’ row. We were so impressed.”  

Many people saw old friends or made new ones as they chatted about the music, art, food . . . and champagne.  

One artist said of the show organizers, “At some festivals they act like they’re doing you a favor; at this one they’re really glad to see you.” Glad included morning coffee and homemade pastries for the artists as they set up, free water deliveries throughout the days, then music and light fare at the Saturday awards ceremony.

Among the entries were jewelry, sculpture, photography, ceramics, leather and, of course, paintings—watercolor, screen prints, tempera, acrylic and oil. One visitor watching the ceremony kindly offered, “Everyone here deserves a blue ribbon.”  

As to that $1,000 fish, it was a beautiful steamed driftwood rendition of a sleek species—and the buyer was a marine scientist.

posted 06.14.2017

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