Arts in the Park

Published 4:36 pm Tuesday, May 9, 2023

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JACKSON – Under a nice blue sky and the shade of an old tree, artists spent Saturday morning setting up their artwork for an outdoor show.

The annual Arts in the Park event was held on May 6 in Jackson’s Courthouse Square. The art showcase is sponsored by the Northampton County Cultural Arts Committee, and features a mix of both local and visiting artists.

“We try to bring this here to expose more people to different types of art,” said Brenda Taylor, a member of the Arts Committee. “I believe there are a lot of artists in Northampton County, but they don’t think they are.”

The art on display Saturday featured a wide range of painting styles, sketching, diamond art, sculpting, and even barn quilts. Visitors to the event had the chance to talk with the artists and learn more about their techniques and what drives them to create art.

“My artwork is based on me receiving inspiration from women. Women of all colors,” explained Mona Cunnikin, an artist from Suffolk, VA who also dabbles with abstract art.

Cunnikin’s paintings showcased women in colorful clothes amidst vibrant scenes on canvas. She has attended Arts in the Park for several years and said she always enjoys it.

“I love the community, and I just love being here. It’s definitely a good event,” she said.

Local artist Mike McDonald, shown with his wife, Joyce, displays a portion of his artwork of nature scenes. Staff Photo by Holly Taylor

Mike McDonald, a Northampton County artist, has participated in Arts in the Park a few times in previous years. He said getting to meet other artists and see their work is one of the highlights.

“I’ve been interested in art, drawing and messing around, since I was a kid,” said McDonald, who grew up in Roanoke Rapids.

Now that he’s retired, he has more time to paint, including the nature landscapes he brought to display on Saturday. McDonald said it’s a relaxing thing to do.

Another artist, Jacqueline Gilchrist, said she got into “diamond painting” as a way to relax too. Gilchrist – along with her sister, Joyceline Brown-Turner of Pleasant Hill, and their friend, Alice Turner of Seaboard – brought examples of their diamond artwork to display under their tent during the event.

The glittering art pieces formed familiar images ranging from basketball players to animals. They also had bookmarks and coasters decked out in the sparkling art as well. Like a combination of cross-stitch and paint-by-numbers, the art is made by affixing the small diamond-like beads to a pattern which ranges from simple to complex.

Gilchrist said she was introduced to the art style last year by a neighbor where she lives in Charlotte. It’s a relaxing activity that takes time and patience. Gilchrist added that she loved it so much, she introduced it to her family and friends in Northampton County.

Brown-Turner is a member of the county’s Cultural Arts Committee, but this is Gilchrist’s first time at Arts in the Park.

“It’s nice to just get the breeze and fresh air,” she admitted, especially while being able to explore the other artwork on display under nearby tents and in the sunshine.

Georgia Taylor, another Cultural Arts Committee member, brought photographs of her barn quilt designs to the event. Her artwork is part of the county’s Barn Quilt Trail where people can visit locations around Northampton County to see her colorful wooden “quilts” on display.

Like other participants, Taylor said she enjoyed getting to meet the other artists and view their own creations, and she hoped people might be interested in traveling the barn quilt trail afterwards.

Cassandra Joyner from Severn said art is something she just did in her spare time. Her artwork covered a range of different subjects, all eye-catching to people passing through. Another Cultural Arts Committee member herself, Joyner said she understood the importance of promoting art, especially to children.

“We’ve got a lot of art and we need to expose the kids to it, instead of guns and all that. Expose them to something positive,” she explained.

Joyner said she hoped Arts in the Park and other similar events can make a difference and inspire young people.

Other artists participating in this year’s event included Ermagene Ross, Evelyn Scott Dawson, Fannie Grant, and Alice Jones.

Informational vendors and food vendors were at the park as well on Saturday for families to enjoy. Music was provided by Rhythm Express of Rocky Mount who serenaded attendees with toe-tapping songs in a variety of genres.

Judy Collier, Chair of the Cultural Arts Committee, had high praise for the artists and bands after the conclusion of the event. It was the event’s first year back since the pandemic, and she said it turned out well.

“All of the artists thoroughly enjoyed it,” Collier said, noting that they’ll be back again next year too.

Like other Cultural Arts Committee events, Arts in the Park is funded through the North Carolina Arts Council Grassroots Grant. That funding is used to provide several arts-based events throughout the year in the local schools and in the community.