Diversity thru art

Published 10:58 am Monday, January 28, 2019

WINDSOR – It was an event to celebrate three ideals dear to the heart of the late civil rights icon and social activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; a celebration of art, culture, and community.

The Bertie County Arts Council sponsored “Dreaming of the Arts”, a community art show, reception, and celebration with music here in honor of Martin Luther King Day. It was held on Monday evening, Jan. 21 – the 33rd anniversary of the holiday – with a gallery display and artists’ showing at the Council headquarters located at rather appropriately named 124 South King Street.

The purpose of the Opening Night celebration, featuring works by local artists and musicians, was designed to highlight the message of Dr. King and his teachings of peace, unity and equality in our society. It also represented participation in art activities with the viewing of current art exhibitions, plus socializing and making new friends.

“This celebrates more than just his birthday,” said one patron, “but also his legacy and his dream.”

Sheila Craig (center, in grey) views art displays at the Bertie Arts Council gallery with several youngsters during the reception-celebration of Dr. King’s appreciation of art, culture, and community.

The display was assembled two weeks ago and will be available for arts patrons and others in the community to view through Feb. 28 during normal gallery hours of 10 a.m.-to-2 p.m., Monday-thru-Friday.

For this particular art show, five African-American artists – Erskine Spruill, Kelly Miller, Willie Pope, Trudy Riggens, and musician Henry Britt – who hail from Bertie, Hertford, Chowan, and Perquimans counties provided their works for display.

“I’m just glad to be with a new family to support my work,” said Willie Pope, a transplanted New Yorker now living near Powellsville, who had many of his pencil, pen and ink, and colored marker creations on display. “I’ve got little goose bumps, because this is my first art show. They spent almost three hours setting (the display) up, so for me this is very exciting.”

“Dr. King believed in everyone getting along and pushing forward,” Pope noted. “Things like that gives you confidence to keep moving in the right direction.”

Pope became an Arts Council member and says he’d like to work with other artists in the area.

“I want us to make each other move, and to expand,” he acknowledged. “Let’s go where we’ve never gone before.” “With 65 percent of the population in this community African-American, we wanted to increase our exposure,” said Arts Council Executive Board President Karen Sours. “Normally we do it in February (for Black History Month) but this year someone recommended Martin Luther King Day.”

“We’re trying to encourage people to know about us, to come to visit us, and to use us as a resource for enjoying the arts,” she stated.

Sours said it’s vital to increase the Arts Council membership’s aid in spreading art throughout all of Bertie County’s schools.

“We pay people to come into the county and to visit the schools; graphic artists as well as poets and musicians,” she added.

Murfreesboro native Kelly Miller, a Chowan University Fine Arts graduate, was making her third featured artist appearance at the Arts Council. In addition to teaching, she is also a member and volunteer at several art galleries in North Carolina and Virginia.

“It’s quite the honor to be invited to participate every year,” Miller noted. “Some artists don’t get this opportunity to have people ask them to come and show off their work.”

Miller says she is a painter who usually creates conceptual artwork (series’, themes, etc.). She also lectures to elementary school children.

“I’m disappointed to see art disappear from our schools for budgetary reasons,” she lamented. “I think they should continue to encourage it. If students like art and they use it to express themselves, then it’s a very important outlet for children. Art is a good release to get your feelings and emotions out.”