Everyone knows oil and water do not mix, and might assume the same is true with paint and/or fruits and vegetables. But a weekend event proved they can come together in a special way.
Held Saturday on the grounds outside the Andy Griffith Playhouse in Mount Airy, it celebrated the relationship between art and nature and the creative ways in which they join forces.
The goal of the annual Art and Nature Festival was simple, according to Margie Imus, a “natural advocate” who helped organize the gathering:
“Pulling art out of nature,” said Imus, who operates Minglewood Farm and Nature Preserve in Westfield, which is dedicated to agricultural practices that stress conservation and also serves as an educational resource for area students.
Saturday’s festival was sponsored in part by a grassroots grant from the North Carolina Arts Council to the farm, which teamed up for the Saturday outreach effort with the Surry Arts Council.
So how did arts and nature mix there exactly?
Among the several activities offered to participants was the making of veggie prints. This occurred on a large table containing items such as celery, pears, apples, green peppers and carrots.
Kids were seen applying paint to sliced-open pears or apples and then pressing the surfaces against pieces of paper to create unique artwork.
Dyami Simmons, a local 6-year-old, used a stalk of celery to paint a picture of waterfalls.
Heather Elliott of the Surry Arts Council said that in addition to the artistic element, this activity had another purpose:
“Looking at things you look at every day and seeing them in a different light,” Elliott said.
For example, the patterns reflected in applications such as fabric for clothing might match the markings on a slice of celery, which drives home the fact that many items have a basis in nature.
This also was evidenced Saturday at another Art and Nature Festival station where participants were making “nature confetti jewelry” such as bracelets, using flowers and plants.
The art-nature theme was further enhanced through activities including “fairies for the garden,” striking nature-inspired yoga poses, nature photography and listening and singing along to live music.
Another highlight of Saturday’s festival was a scheduled presentation in the Andy Griffith Museum Theatre which tied nature to the television program starring Mount Airy’s most-famous native son. It was led by author and professor Neal Brower, which featured the “Back to Nature” episode of “The Andy Griffith Show.”
It is a much-beloved entry of the series which details a camping trip involving Andy, Barney, Gomer, Opie and some of his friends in which they learn about the harsh realities of the Great Outdoors in humorous, yet wholesome ways.
One parent who attended Saturday’s festival, Jennifer O’Neal-Simmons — mother of Dyami — appreciated the opportunity.
“I happened to see it in the paper,” she said of an announcement about the event, and was motivated to attend.
“It’s artistic, it’s free and it wasn’t raining.”
O’Neal-Simmons also is familiar with Minglewood Farm and Nature Preserve and admires its mission, and welcomed the opportunity Saturday to be among “like-minded people.”
The local mom said there were lessons to be learned, including the need for people to let nature do its thing.
“They don’t know what’s growing in the yard — they don’t let it grow long enough,” she said of the desire of many to maintain close-cropped lawns, which prevents useful species such as native flowering plants from flourishing.
“If we don’t have pollination, we can’t eat.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.