WILMINGTON — Eddie Maier has been participating in the Orange Street ArtsFest for 10 years. He travels up and down the East Coast to participate in around 20 festivals annually.
“I love seeing places across the country,” Maier said. “We’ve got brothers and sisters all over — that’s what makes an artist’s life so special.”
From Morgantown, West Virginia, Maier will join roughly 80 other artists from multiple states, including South Carolina and Virginia, as well as local talent for this year’s event.
Thalian Association Community Theatre will host its 27th annual festival in downtown Wilmington this Memorial Day weekend. Four participating artists who are returning have been a part of the event cumulatively for almost two decades and continue to challenge themselves to stand out.
“We are always changing through growth and corrections and creating who we will be tomorrow,” local artist Brad Carter said.
Carter has been a part of the event eight times and won a few.
The festival is juried, with the top three artists paid out with cash prizes. The first place winner receives $150, second place gets $100, third place earns $75, and four judge-categorized awards each at $50. The judge-categorized awards are based on originality, best booth, 2D and 3D art, and others. The 2023 OSAF judge is Ben Billingsley, art instructor of Cape Fear Community College. Billingsley has worked at CFCC since 2001 and exhibited his own creations as a printmaker and painter in the United States, Latvia, Estonia, Russia and Japan.
“Artists like to participate in a juried show because of the recognition, experience, and feeling of accomplishment,” Susan Habas, the executive director of the Thalian Association Community Theatre, said, “and of course, the gorgeous ribbon and prize money.”
Habas has helped with the festival since 2012 and expects up to 6,000 people to attend this weekend.
“The festival really exploded seven years ago with streets filled with happy visitors and a relaxed family atmosphere,” she said.
Maier, a woodblock printmaker, creates his work in an effort to help others understand the beauty of nature. He often hosts art workshops teaching gelatin printing, plexiglass printing, and African-style Batik fabric printing and dying.
The artist will be selling wood and linoleum blocks. He described one piece, “The Fishhawk,” that came to fruition with the assistance of his family. His wife and children often help him ink the surface of the woodblocks and make frames.
“The Fishhawk” shows an osprey carrying a fish through a body of water with a black-and-white color scheme that visualized a beach and coastal scenery.
Maier found his passion for woodblock printmaking while studying abroad in Australia in his early years.
“After 20 years, I can’t stop carving,” Maier said. “I’m obsessed with the process. I love printmaking.”
He also aims to inspire youth and future generations of artists, a goal of the Orange Street ArtsFest overall. For the second straight year, the festival will feature the work of Laney High School students. The school’s ceramic show and sale will be exhibited inside the Community Arts Center, led by high school graphics teacher Kristen Morgan.
“Our mission is to provide arts, education, opportunity, and life skills for the youth,” Habas said about TACT. It hosts numerous youth productions and summer camps annually.
Abstract artist Carter has been painting since youth, something he began exploring as a hobby alongside his grandmother. He pursued the passion further by attending Virginia Commonwealth University in 2002 and obtaining a degree in painting and printmaking.
In 2013, he began Bradley Carter LLC and continues to create in his studio weekly. In addition to having work for sale at the OSAF, he has a gallery opening at WHQR, titled “Saturated Sensations,” featuring works with Kendall Fuqua, an abstract artist.
“But like all careers, education is a continual process, and I try to stay involved in the community if it’s events like Orange Street, volunteering with the Wilmington Art Association, and other art organizations in Wilmington,” Carter said.
He also travels twice a year or more to other town’s festivals. At this year’s OSAF, he will be set up on Second Street, selling roughly 20 pieces.
Carter classified his abstracts as therapeutic and emotional, part of a free creative process. He points to “Just,” a 15-inch-by-30-inch acrylic piece that features light shades of blue and rich orange, backed by negative white space and swirls of brushstrokes. He relies on connection in color theory to evoke emotion in the art.
Its inspiration was rooted in 1900s to 1950s art and the abstract-expressionist movement.
“You can pick up different influences in my work from all different styles as I blend them into hopefully my own recognizable style,” he said.
Emotional reactions to the work vary, something Carter said is personal to each viewer’s own perspective.
“A lot of times, the finished project doesn’t resemble the start, but that can be said for us also,” Cater said. “We are always changing through growth, connections and creating who we will be tomorrow.”
Artists deal with differing expectations not only from within but others who observe. Jewelry maker Octavia Murphy, who has owned Maxwell’s Treasures for two years, is a perfectionist when it comes to what she displays. It will be her second year at OSAF.
Self-taught, her necklaces and earrings are African-inspired with swirled wire. She creates them from a variety of materials: Bumblebee agate, African wood, jasper, quartz and glass beads, as well as aluminum, copper, and sterling silver.
“The wire gives me inspiration,” she said. “Everything I create has to be perfect to me or I can’t let it go. When it comes to being an artistic creator your reputation is everything which is something I value the most.”
Wilmington local Emily Tippet said she gives herself realistic boundaries since she began exploring pottery in high school. She also majored in art at CFCC.
“I weigh positive and negative comments and determine if it has room in my mind,” she said. “I put them on a shelf.”
It wasn’t until October 2019 Tippet began selling her work. This year marks the third Tippet has entered the OSAF, where she sells coffee mugs, vases and other ceramics. She’s participated in the American Craft Walk, the Brooklyn Arts Center and the Autumn of Topsail.
Tippet will feature more than 200 pieces at the festival but described the “The Circle Vase” as a “donut that stands by its side.” The vase, 6 inches by 10 inches , was inspired by a wine decanter.
The artist centers her work in rich and muted color schemes.
“The vase represents a feeling of laughter, and joy,” Tippet described. “It enhances the morning with coffee, sitting around the dinner table with family.”
The Orange Street ArtsFest takes place May 27, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, May 28, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Community Arts Center Building, 120 S. Second Street. It’s free to attend, though donations for TACT are welcome.
Vendor booths will be lined up on Orange Street between Front and Second streets, and on Second Street between Orange and Dock streets. The event will take place rain or shine.
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