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Lake City’s ArtFields

By Tom Poland
web posted May 1, 2015

LIFE DOWN SOUTH – In the Pee Dee’s old tobacco land beautiful detritus charms the eye. Old farmhouses stand weary but prideful. Along the edge of fields, barns—veterans of former glories, old warriors that they were—do time. Changing lifestyles imprisoned them right where they stand. Rusting roofs, exposed beams, curling tin, and collapsing outbuildings stand as monuments to hardworking hands that are no more.

Surely the hands that sawed and hammered these buildings into life lie beneath the soil they drove tractors o’er. The lonely splendor manifest in rusted tin ’bacca barns leaning away from the winds of change bless the land with beautiful detritus ....

Around these parts people still farm tobacco, but its demise has forced many to find new ways to earn a living, and the little towns they depend on have had to reinvent themselves too. For certain, one has.

As the economy rose and dipped through the years, Lake City became a place you passed on the way to the beach. And then three years ago, “The South’s Most Engaging Art Festival and Competition”—ArtFields—made the roads into Lake City a whole lot busier. The third annual ArtFields began April 24 and ends May 2.

While the story of Lake City’s transformation through art is still being written, it is known wide and far. ArtFields seeks to fill Lake City with art and events and installations of art in public and private spaces. Artists and artisans give talks. It’s fun, festive, and informative. Walk the streets and look for the round, fluorescent orange stickers on local businesses. Inside you’ll find art. The entire town embraces art.

Philanthropist and Lake City native Darla Moore grew up watching farmers employ creativity to sell their crops at market. A creative gardening project on her ancestral farm grew into an inspiration that resulted in Moore’s supporting “The South’s Most Engaging Art Festival and Competition.” She wanted to see creativity spread throughout Lake City and its communities. ArtFields resulted

At the festival’s conclusion, the people’s choice and judges’ categories designate the winning artists. Artists find the $100,000 in prizes enticing to say the least, though the forum itself is compelling. People walk the streets from venue to venue. They can register at the event and vote for the art that most impresses. Nearly every aspect of Artfields is free, but there are a few events that require tickets.

The old farmers lying in the ground love knowing that warehouses that held beans and ’bacca now harbor brushwork, bricolage, beauty, and bios. I imagine, too, that the old timers consider the beautiful detritus they left us to be their contribution to art. For each collapsing barn stands as a mixed media of nails, wood, and tin that inevitably will crumble into the field it once surveyed and become part of earth—that all-embracing museum in this Pee Dee region where transition and transformation are the order of the day.

Since ArtFields ends May 2, plan a trip next spring.

110 E. Main Street, Lake City, SC 29560

Photos By Tom Poland

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