Once a year, a town in South Carolina with a population of just over 6,500 triples in size.
Lake City, two hours north of Charleston, is transformed into an art lover's oasis for ArtFields, a 9-day event that fills over 45 shops and venues with installments by hundreds of artists from all across the country. This year it takes place April 26 through May 4.
ArtFields isn't just an event that brings tourists into the town to mingle with artists, peruse temporary galleries and attend panels and other arts and entertainment-focused events. It's also a competition that awards more than $140,000 in cash prizes to participating talent.
Last year, Charleston's own Colin Quashie won the People's Choice Award for 2D art, which put $12,500 in his pocket. Kristi Ryba, another Charleston artist, won second in the overall competition.
This year, at least 15 Charleston artists are competing out of the total group of 351, including photographer Donna Hurt. She's participated in ArtFields every other year since its inception in 2013.
Now, she's undertaking an installation on a scale she's never done before. The installation, titled "Push and Pull," features a 60-by-94-foot triptych photograph as its main focus. Hurt is adding actual rocks, like the ones featured in the photograph, out into the space surrounding the image to make it 3D.
"It will help facilitate the tension seen in the 2D photograph," she says.
The tension she's referring to, in part, has to do with the long exposure capture during which she entered the frame herself to dance and create a translucent figure in motion.
"Every place has a story, and by placing myself in the frame with movement, dance and even ritual, I become the feminine protagonist collaborating with the land to facilitate a nonlinear narrative," Hurt says. "This work comes out of a desire to return to my wild self and deepen my relationship to the land."
Hurt, who grew up in Virginia capturing landscapes through the lens, traveled to Colorado for the image that will be on display at ArtFields this year. The installment can be seen at the Jones Carter Gallery, one of many participating venues.
"I strive to push the medium of photography and expand its language," Hurt says.
Another Charleston artist who will be participating is watercolorist Anita Laudone Harley.
Harley's work has been at ArtFields since 2016.
"Not only does ArtFields present a significant opportunity to expose one’s work to a broad audience and to connect personally with artists from throughout the Southeast, it is particularly inspiring to see an entire town become a living art gallery," she says.
This year, her exhibiting work is a painting titled "Beauty is Life Deep." It's from a series she's created called "Patterns of Life" that focuses on people as they age and examines their resilience, and sometimes their loneliness, as etched on their faces and in their gestures.
She contrasts soft watercolors with bold abstract backgrounds.
She says, "I want the viewer to stop and really look at the elderly and see, as the novelist Ursula LeGuin said, 'for a moment, all at once... the spirit flashing out across the years, beautiful.'"
Artists from far beyond South Carolina will also be competing this year, including a first-time participant from West Virginia.
Barrie Kaufman is exhibiting "It's In The Pipes," a 6-foot-high glass sculpture consisting of twisted cobalt blue pipes with elements of fire, flowers, dead stumps, leaves and saws.
The sculpture tells the story of a water crisis that occurred in Charleston, West Virginia, last year when coal cleaning chemicals were discharged into the water source and contaminated the local drinking water.
Kaufman adapted the original floor piece to a wall sculpture specifically for the ArtFields competition.
In addition to artwork on display, there are a variety of events throughout the 9-day competition.
Highlights include the ColorMe 5K from 8-11 a.m. April 27 at the Village Green, a live portrait contest from 12-4 p.m. April 27 at the Bean Market, the Dandelion Gala from 7-10 p.m. May 2 at the Bean Market and a performance by the Harlem Gospel Choir from 7-10 p.m. May 3 at the Village Green. For a full schedule of events, visit artfieldssc.org/events.
The winners of ArtFields will be announced at the finale from 7:30-10 p.m. May 4 on the Village Green. Whenever you visit, there will be plenty of art available to peruse for free.
"The magic of ArtFields is that we put fine art in your everyday downtown business," Fine Arts Manager Holly Shady says. "If you go in to get breakfast, you’re going to see fine art. If you go in to get a new mattress, you’re going to see fine art."