Arts in the Park
JACKSON – Under the shade of the old oak tree in the park behind Jackson’s historic courthouse, local artists from Northampton County—and a few from Halifax County too—gathered to display their work to the public.
The ninth annual Arts in the Park was held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. The event was sponsored by the Northampton County Cultural Arts Committee and was funded by a grassroots grant.
“We’re proud of our local artists, and we’re proud that we’re able to present this to our citizens each year,” said Judy Collier, chair of the Arts Committee.
A wide variety of art was on display by the nine artists who participated in this year’s showcase. Some have brought their work every year, while for others it was their first time participating in an art show.
Johnny Shelton, a retired Army Master Sergeant who served for 23 years, brings his art every year. It’s the only time he participates in an event like this, he said.
Now that he’s retired, he explained creating art gives him something to do. His display table was an eclectic mix of woodblock paintings, hand-painted bags, meat cleavers, hand-woven baskets, jewelry, and decorative crafts made of common items like pipe cleaners, plastic spoons, and Easter eggs.
Some of his decorative pieces, which fit into tiny wooden rocking chairs he also made, are meant to add some color to dressers and bookshelves. Others sit atop air fresheners, adding some fun to a typical household item. He crafted faces onto the decorations using googly eyes and painted seashells, adding tufts of colorful pipe cleaner to serve as hair.
No two pieces of his art look the same.
For his paintings, Shelton used white pine wood. Despite the arthritis in his hands, he said he takes care to etch the design into the wood before he paints them. The pictures he paints are inspired by what he’s seen in magazines or on TV or whatever is on his mind at the time.
“I just think of it and do it,” he said. “I take pride in making them.”
Several artists brought paintings to display. The subjects ranged from landscapes to animals to portraits, all capturing different aspects of life and the world around us. People walking from tent to tent could see a variety of watercolor and acrylic paintings.
Cathy McInville, owner of Conway Studio Works, brought a variety of her stained glass and sculpture work to display under her tent. She uses scrap metal to craft innovative bird baths and other decorative yard items. She’s also skilled in making stained glass, which can be seen in other pieces of her art like kaleidoscopes, nightlights, and hanging plant holders.
Each artist’s story was just as varied as their art. Mary Ellen Jones said she studied art in college and later
taught the subject. Becky Turner said she simply learned how to paint from her mother. Artists like McInville and Shykeyma Branch run their own businesses focused on their art, while others just create artwork as a hobby.
In addition to the art show, a portion of the park also featured a few local vendors selling goods and food for visitors to enjoy. For the last two hours of the event, the Willie Peebles Band serenaded the crowd with familiar tunes. The popular music group is made up of locals from the town of Jackson.
Artists who participated in the annual event this year were Patricia Barnes, Fannie Grant, Mary Ellen Jones, Ermagene Ross, Johnny Shelton, Rhonda Holmes, Cathy McInville, Shykeyma Branch, and Becky Turner. Artworks from KIPP College Preparatory School were on display as well.
Collier noted there were additional artists who were unable to make it to the event this year, but she hoped they would be able to attend future Arts in the Park events. There is always plenty of amazing local talent to display during the annual affair, she said, and it’s all “right here on our doorstep.”