Downtown Mount Airy was transformed into a giant art gallery during a Saturday event that allowed visitors to sample the creativity of more than 100 exhibitors.
As might be expected, oil and watercolor paintings and drawings were plentiful during the second-annual Mount Airy Art Walk, which were displayed at participating stores and other locations throughout the central business district.
But there was more in the way of art to be found as well, with the list also including photography, woodworking, ceramics, sculpture — just about anything else one could name.
Both visitors and merchants seemed pleased with the six-hour Art Walk encompassing more than 50 different venues, co-sponsored by the Downtown Business Association and the Surry Arts Council.
One fan of the visual arts, Nicole Smith of Mount Airy, seemed mesmerized by larger-than-life portraits of Marilyn Monroe and others which were hanging in a wall at the crowded new Austin Clarke Gallery at the corner of North Main and East Oak streets.
“I really like it,” Smith said around the mid-point of the Art Walk. “I like Bob Marley in particular,” she added in reference to the large painting of the King of Reggae which was displayed just above that of Marilyn’s.
The format of the Art Walk allowed the public to visit various downtown stores along the North Main Street corridor, where their participation was indicated by yellow signs hanging out front. By going inside, items displayed by various artisans could be found.
At some locations, the artists actually were demonstrating their talents, which was the case with Pepper Martin of Patrick Springs, Va., who took up oil painting about five years ago after beginning her career with motorcycle airbrushing.
“I love it,” Martin said while painting a landscape scene on the street outside the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce Building as a steady stream of passersby watched. “The nicest people have come through here and the weather’s great.”
Pepper Martin, who was attending the Mount Airy Art Walk for the first time, also was appreciative of another aspect of the gathering — being able to sell some of her creations.
“It doesn’t cost them a dime,” Surry Arts Council Executive Director Tanya Jones said of how artists were benefiting. “They can sell their work and keep the money.”
The fact that the viewing of art was combined with a walk seemed appealing to many, including a mother and son visiting from Christiansburg, Va., Sandy and Justin Ward. He said the Art Walk enhanced their main mission Saturday of “taking in downtown Mayberry,” which they had visited previously.
The two weren’t even aware that the Art Walk was taking place. “But it adds to the day to look at nice art,” added Justin Ward, a reporter for WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, Va.
“Seeing people walking downtown” was one of the event’s benefits in the view of Amy Slate, owner of Scarlet Begonias, another downtown business. “Having them see how walkable it is, and just the exposure to all the different artists we have here.”
Slate, as did others, reported steady traffic from Art Walk. “A lot of students,” she said of those coming by her store to see paintings and batik creations by Keenia Beck, an art teacher at Mount Airy High School.
Bob White, owner of the Pandowdy’s restaurant that hosted photography by Hobart Jones, said getting more folks downtown is an important aspect of the Art Walk.
“Quite a bit of people (are) walking down the streets,” White said toward the end of the event. “It was a little better than last year — a little more activity.”
The veteran restaurateur added: “Anything will help.”
Jones, the Surry Arts Council official, confirmed that this year’s Art Walk was quite a bit larger than the first event in 2012.
Variety A Key
“We’ve had a good little turnout,” agreed Debbie Gregson, a Fancy Gap, Va., artist who was displaying her ceramics, quilts and other creations in the courtyard of Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.
She also was demonstrating the art of yo-yo making — not the toy on a string, but the kind that involves sewing designs that can accent quits and other products. “It’s an old term,” Gregson said of this type of yo-yos which became popular in the 1920s.
Gregson said the variety offered by Art Walk seemed to make an impression on visitors.
“I think it brings an awareness that it’s more than one medium of art — you can see all different styles.”
Other artists demonstrated their talents at additional locations, including the Andy Griffith Playhouse complex and the Mount Airy Public Library. The Gertrude Smith House and Dr. Robert Smith House were part of the Art Walk as well.
But art would not be art without a critic or two involved, including Carol Roughton of Westfield, who attended with a niece from the Charlotte area, Rebecca Rolfsmeyer.
“I’ve liked what I’ve seen, but I would like to see more of it,” Roughton said in echoing an observation voiced by others about only small amounts of artwork being scattered among the different stores and sometimes hard to find in them.
“When I go out and see art, I like to see lots of art,” the Westfield resident added.
The Art Walk was supported by a subgrant from the North Carolina Arts Council, which was administered through the Surry Arts Council to the Downtown Business Association for marketing the event.
This partnership allowed artists to exhibit their creations in non-traditional venues, and helped fulfill a state mission of letting residents of all corners of North Carolina to experience what might normally be found only in larger cities.
“And this has been a great collaboration,” Tanya Jones said.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.