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The town of Fuquay-Varina may not top the typical list of NC cultural hotspots, but this fall many artists will seek to bring this charming corner of the Triangle into the spotlight. As a part of the ongoing festivities planned and promoted by Fuquay-Varina's Downtown Revitalization Association, this visual art tour took interested viewers up and down a walking tour with local artists who have displayed works in F-V storefronts. These works will remain on display until November, and they are easily visible on foot or from a vehicle on Fuquay's Main Street and Varina's Broad Street. The guided walking tour featured visits and discussions by most of the artists and collaborators and ended at newly opened Draft Line Brewing for a reception, live music, and the announcement of three awarded works.
Organizers at the Open Art Society placed an open call for artists in August, the only limitation being that works must reflect on water in an homage to F-V's rich history rooted in the Mineral Springs. This brief history was retold to the artists who applied:
"The Fuquay Mineral Springs were discovered around 1858 when Stephen Fuquay (or possibly his son David Crockett) was plowing his fields in what is now downtown Fuquay. The mineral spring soon became a focal point of the town. Today a picturesque park surrounds the spring and nearby you can see several historic buildings. Although these are now offices and housing, they were originally built as accommodations for people who came to 'take the waters' for health benefits."
The works chosen for the exhibit include paintings hung in windows, interactive sculptures, poems printed on windows, and complex mixed media collaborations that involved up to ten artists to create! For artists' descriptions and addresses of all ten works, please visit the event page.
Open Art Society's Jessica Moore met artists and viewers at the Mineral Springs, then led the crowd down to Main Street, where the first seven works were presented and discussed at their various locations. These included (in order of viewing), a preface at Mineral Spring Park, the painting Tranquility by Shirley Hunsberger, the poem "Taking the Waters" by Nancy Young, the photo collage Selfies at the Spring by Helen Seebold and Erin Lawler, the fiber arts work A Look Into the Well by Pinkie Strother, the town model The Beginning by John Suteu, the installation Fountainhead by JR Butler, and the installation Fuquay Spring Showers by Roger Person.
Third place winner Selfies at the Spring by Helen Seebold and Erin Lawler at Elliot's Pharmacy is a collage of exactly what it sounds like: people taking self-portraits at Mineral Springs are invited to post photos on Facebook or Twitter and tag #selfiesatthespring or @selfiesatthespring. The second place winner, displayed at Magnolia House, is a painting that seems to explode into color with the use of streamers and fabrics flowing across the windows from off the edges of an oil painting that artist Shirley Hunsberger explains took 20 years to complete – because "having an unfinished painting out on an easel with small children in the house just seemed like a bad idea." The painting, Tranquility, is based on a river in Ohio Hunsberger remembers fondly from her childhood. The first-place work, located in an abandoned building that looks like it used to be a gas station, was created by artist JR Butler. The multi-sculptural piece, Fountainhead, represents the beginning of any spring or great river: raindrops. These raindrops were painstakingly created with clear packaging tape wrapped around chicken wire molds – Butler said it took two or three full rolls of tape to create each raindrop - then suspended in the windows and illuminated.
Viewers were then encouraged to drive back over to the Varina side of town, past Fuquay-Varina High School's lively football game, to see the last three works, PositiviTree by Fuquay-Varina High School emerging artists, Healing the Waters by Lee Moore Crawford with Renee Leverty and Kelly Knapp, and Water: Healing, Nurturing, Transforming, presented as a collaboration by Ann Marie Amico, Barbara Damiano, John McCorsley, Frank Savarese, Carol Hunter, and Jeff & Lisa Ross. PositiviTree was discussed by several of its high school artists. The installation, a series of painted pieces depicting hands letting water drip into a spring that forms a bright and encouraging tree, was a collaboration between eight students (Aliyah Alexander, Alyssa Hartzheim, Jasmine Hicks, Victoria Horton, Rosalia Jimenez, Dallie Kandil, and Danielle Dolphin), two group leaders (Megan Singleton and Taylor Forzaglia), and teacher Blair Hale. Without seeing the artists, PositiviTree could easily seem like it was created by another one of the professionals – a testament to the teamwork and dedication these young adults put into the work.
No, Fuquay-Varina may not be as popular of an arts hub as Raleigh, Durham, or Chapel Hill, but this small town's plan to revitalize its culture and community is admirable and has brought a lot of wonderful people together! The walk was a treat (did I mention the free wine and lovely reception contributed by Naomi Riley and her colleagues from the F-V Downtown Revitalization Association?) and a fantastic way to spend a Friday night. The works will be on display through November, and there are many other events happening downtown this fall – be sure to check them out!