Art on the Trail: A Tradition of Art & Community
by Lacey Eibert Keigley
Which came first – the art or the trail?
(It’s a rhetorical question, y’all, no need to pull out the research.)
For the past six years the Travelers Rest Artists Alliance has put together a premier art festival right here in TR.
The annual autumn event features the works of more than 70 artisans of all varieties. (And yes – there’s food too. They have to be sure you have sustenance enough to keep walking through the myriad of artists. Food providers like our locals from Pink Mama’s and The Hungry Drover and Upcountry Provisions, as well as several other delicious options. Of course, you can always walk downtown and dine in one of your favorites there as well.)
This year’s Art on the Trail will be held at Trailblazer Park on October 21 from 10 to 4.
We can think of a hundred reasons why you should attend Art on the Trail but one really fantastic reason is the most obvious – to support local and regional artists. Take the time to jot down a list of people for whom you normally buy Christmas presents before you come – and then keep your eyes open because we don’t know many people who wouldn’t appreciate local and beautiful, one of kind gifts – from jewelry to pottery to woodworking to watercolor and more.
“I have attended Art on the Trail all 5 years,” festival attendee Emily Melton shares. “I even worked on committees last year and look forward to the 6th. Each year it is more interesting. Trailblazer Park is a perfect venue. And amazing art tempts me each year. The children’s area, the artist demonstrations, the entertainers and the food trucks are wonderful additions. Last year, the addition of TR high school students partnering with the TR Historical Society was charming and educational for all.”
This year the Limelight Players (the same group performing the upcoming Mystery Dinner Theatre at The Hungry Drover) will be performing vignettes throughout the day. Face painting will be available too.
Art on the Trail is actually a juried art contest as well. The lead judge is the head of Furman University’s Art Department. Art on the Trail is produced and created through the artists and the art supporters at the Travelers Rest Artists Alliance. This year’s event is focusing especially on veterans. “We have been working with Brad Carraway, an Iraqi War Veteran and art therapist who has been giving free art classes to veterans throughout the year at the White Rabbit Fine Art Gallery,” Patty Cunningham, one of the members of the planning committee, states. “Brad will also be at the event. We try to collaborate with as many TR organizations as possible.”
It’s obvious that the Art on the Trail event is both a labor of love and a treasured tradition.
With over 5,000 people attending the event, the entire experience becomes unforgettable, and something many families and individuals attend year after year. One such attendee, Ginger Bell, shares her love of attending this annual event.
“I would like to say to Travelers Rest – your creativity is showing and we like it. And it appears that the community leaders are encouraging this creative expansion. Unique businesses and art draw people in. Not only can we enjoy the downtown art in local businesses and the murals on Main Street, but we also look forward to the short walk to Trailblazer Park for Art on the Trail” Ginger says. In previous years the event has been held along Main Street itself, but now with Art on the Trail moving to Trailblazer Park, there is much more room to spread out and to accommodate more artists and tents and food trucks. “Meandering through the crowds – which are not elbow to elbow – talking to the artists, eating at the local food trucks or restaurants,” Ginger adds, “is a great way to spend a nice fall day in our favorite small town.”
Many of the artists who bring their craft to the park have as many fond memories of the day as those of us who attend the event have.
“I enjoy being there at the venue because Travelers Rest is such a wonderful town and everyone is so friendly and welcoming,” artist Cheryl Mcmahon shares. Cheryl tells the story of how she had a good crowd of children gathered around her once as she was painting. “The children were very interested in what I was doing and asked lots of questions about painting. If I can inspire one child to develop their artistic side, then I feel I have accomplished something of great value.”
It is inspiring – both to children and to grown ups – to be exposed to such a great degree of variety in artistic expressions, to watch artists hone their crafts and to admire the beauty that is made by mind and by hand.
With over 70 different artists, you can guarantee there will be a wide variety. Dan of Oriskany Glass will be there with his charming hanging glass planters and light catchers. Thomas Chiarello, an award winner from last year, will return with his colorful creations. Debbie Wilson will have her popular gourd art. Appalachian Spirit Folk Instruments will demonstrate and sell their lovely handmade music makers. Some of the photographers who will be present are Joe Hiltabel, Mathew Barron and D. Rainey. There will be art by Annalies Cahill, Ann Page, Wallflower and Stellar Art. Ceramics by Three Leaves Potters, The Wandering Artist and Cinders Ceramics, to name a few. You can find jewelry crafted by Woodbine Studio, Kaleidescope, LaRue Boho Soho, JBJ Designs and RMK Creations. Other artists include Leather Curios and Just Turning, Kindychet with their knit pieces and The Painted Folk, as well as watercolor artists Dennis Fulbright.
“Art on the Trail is one of my favorite art shows. I like the location, the size of the venue and especially the diversity of vendors,” potter Tata Hadtstein explains. “What draws me back again and again are also the open, interested and friendly people who visit the festival. They are not only interested in your art but like to meet the artist.”
Tata shares a story of how someone had come up to her booth looking especially for her because they had seen a photo of a mug she had created and they wanted that very item.
And then she shares another story which y’all might believe we made up for this article, although you’ll have to take my word for it that we did not.
In an email sent to Patty Cunningham for this article, Tata shares how a customer she knew from the previous year had come to her tent last year and said, “I am so happy and relieved you are here this year. I was worried you could not make it this year. Then she shared the story of how her family takes turns using a bowl she had bought from me. I felt so honored!”
I had to smile at how the world works when I read this email with this quote. That customer, the one who said her family takes turns using Tata Hadtstein’s bowl – that’s MY family.We do that! We bought her bowl last year. It’s a beautiful bowl and we love it. We call it our “fire and ice” bowl because it’s a gorgeous fiery red glaze on the outside and a cool blue glaze on the inside. (I guess y’all know whose both I’ll be stopping by this year to share this story.)
Tata adds, “It is important for me to meet the people who show interest in my work. I don’t just want to display but also to talk and explain about my pieces. The motto of my pottery is ‘Unique pieces for everyday use’. It is such a great feeling and honor to meet and interact with people who choose to make my pieces part of their daily life. When I sell a coffee mug I often tell the customer that from now on we can have coffee together in the morning. It doesn’t just put a smile on their faces, I also remember a lot of those faces when I have my coffee.”
And that’s just a little piece of the magic that art – and an event like Art on the Trail – can bring to you, to our town, to your kitchen table. A memory. Usable art. Art that brings joy or adds beauty or tells a story. Art that becomes a part of your family narrative.
We hope you’ll bring your friends and your family to Art on the Trail and spend the day supporting art and making memories.