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The arts spring to life at community event

JACKSON — Pablo Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” With that said, Picasso would have been proud as Northampton County artists of all ages congregated here on Saturday at the first Community Arts Day. The day was filled with creativity from musical performances to art contests. Local artists using all kinds of mediums displayed their work for all to see. “Northampton County has many talented artists,” said Northampton Cultural Arts Committee Chairperson Judy Collier. The committee’s mission statement is “to make the arts accessible to all citizens by preserving culture and fostering the growth and development of artists and the arts through education, outreach and shared experiences.” Collier said the initiative would not be possible without the work of Senator Ed Jones and Representative Michael Wray to secure a North Carolina Arts Council Grassroots grant for the event. Local sponsors also supported the event. Leigh Ann Wilder, Arts Council Regional Coordinator for Eastern North Carolina, noted to the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald the committee’s dedication to making the event happen. She described the committee, who she had worked with since January, was a very hardworking group. “Very few of them had art backgrounds, but they had a vision of what they could do in the county,” she said. Wilder noted the importance of arts in communities. “I work with a lot of rural communities; arts are a way to build a community, arts are often passed down (in families),” she said. The grant also provided an artist in residence, Bryant Holsenbeck, who worked with local school children for a week on a community art project. Committee members revealed that colorful community art work made out of scraps of fabric called “Weaving Like a Bird,” which was worked on by Holsenbeck, Northampton County school students (public and home schooled) and community members. Holsenbeck is known for documenting “stuff” that is used once and thrown away. The environmental artist often utilizes that “stuff” in artwork that may be made out of bottle caps, shoes or chopsticks. In her week long residency, Holsenbeck made her way around to the different educational venues in the county, working with 600 students on weaving the five colorful frames. Members of the community, including those from the J.W. Faison Senior Center and area churches, worked to complete the project as well. “Creativity lives in Northampton County,” said Holsenbeck told the crowd before the artwork was revealed. The art work was presented to Northampton County Commission Vice Chair Fannie Greene who accepted it on the county’s behalf. “We are so very proud (of the students),” said Greene. “You will see them displayed somewhere in this building.” Many who attended Community Arts Day noted the importance of arts in schools. “Sometimes the arts get forgotten, but they are a very important part of our schools,” said Northampton County (Public) Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy. Throughout the day others echoed that sentiment, including Holsenbeck herself. “If we lose it (art) in schools, we’re losing teaching children how to express their feelings and thoughts,” she said. Holsenbeck earned a new fan in Monty Bridgers of Conway who worked on “Weaving Like a Bird” with her at Willis Hare Elementary School. Monty’s mother, Susan, said she heard all about weaving with Holsenbeck when the eight year old got home. Monty said he and his classmates practiced just once on weaving with Holsenbeck before the work on the piece began. “The colors are so pretty,” he said. “(Art) is mostly my favorite subject.” Several local artists in the area set up displays for art enthusiasts to browse. The different arts ranged from painting to basket weaving to quilt making to music and even crocheting. Karmane Williams of Seaboard displayed his pencil sketches. The 20-year-old, who has been sketching for nine years, said he enjoyed the first Community Arts Day. “It’s been great for me,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of people from all different corners.” Leah Futrell of Severn displayed her crocheted blankets. Futrell, who picked the craft up from her mother-in-law, said in one year she has made 15 blankets. “I think it’s really great,” she said about the event. “I really would have liked to have seen more artists here.” Charita Bond of Conway brought her three children for exposure to the arts. Bond’s 8-year-old daughter, Robin, participated in “Weaving Like a Bird.” “It’s been interesting with the different music and cultures,” said Bond.