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Celebrating art, and a return to normalcy

WORLD Radio - Celebrating art, and a return to normalcy

At a recent outdoor festival in Virginia, visitors soaked up sunshine and community


Joshua Wilson, plein air painting. Photo by Kim Henderson

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, May 19th.

Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.

A quick reminder that May is the time dedicated just for first-time supporters, the listener who’s never given before. Maybe that’s you. You listen to this program, find it edifying, and want to be part of helping it to continue. And right now, any first-time financial support you send will be triple matched by two other generous families! Just go to wng.org/donate. Wng.org/donate.

EICHER: And thank you if you’ve already joined the ranks of first-time givers. It really makes a difference.

Well, next up on The World and Everything in It: Spring Scenes.

Landscapes are coming alive with the sights and smells of spring. Cities are coming back to life, too. Proof of that? Community calendars chock full of things to do after a year chock full of things you couldn’t do. WORLD Senior Correspondent Kim Henderson takes us to an event that celebrates local artists.

KIM HENDERSON, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Rachel Smith didn’t lose her job with the Lynchburg Parks and Recreation Department during the pandemic. But her skill set was stretched.

SMITH: I work community recreation. We are here to provide in-person programming. That is my job.

COVID required the department change its programming. Smith sent out supply kits for an online wreath-making class. Learned how to zoom a monthly community health talk with a doctor. Moved the annual glow ride cycling event to a space where participants could be socially distanced.

SMITH: We have rethought everything, which is actually how we ended up with Art in the Park.

AMBI: OUTDOORS

Art in the Park looks a lot like a festival. Vendor tents are scattered across a grassy public space complete with sidewalks, pavilions, and a playground. Couples walk hand in hand. Music filters through the air. Kids play. And everywhere, art.

Smith and her team picked a good day for it. The CDC just lifted the mask mandate.

SMITH: And so we are thrilled to be out here on this beautiful, sunny day. It's 72 and gorgeous, with no masks on, and we are thrilled.

Art in the Park participants seem equally excited. Artist Greg Paige has a canopy set up near the entrance in a select spot of shade. His customer is sitting still as a statue while Paige uses charcoal pencils to draw her profile. It’s an impressive likeness. Spectators line up to watch him work.

PAIGE: On the weekends I could always go out and draw portraits at festivals. This is really my first show since the pandemic.

Paige honed his skills at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts. These on-the-spot, while-you-wait portraits take him about 10 minutes. He says portraits are gifts that give back.

PAIGE: You’re getting it back because God is blessing you and filling you with all the joy He gives you. And so you have this talent to express yourself. So it’s not really me that’s doing the work. It’s God. I’m His instrument.

A sidewalk away, Carter Martin is doing a stained glass demonstration.

AMBI: STAINED GLASS DEMONSTRATION

Nearby, potter Sarah Echols is displaying her wares.

ECHOLS: I have my wheel, and I’ve thrown a few mugs, and I’ve crushed a few mugs which people really get irked at, but like, you can’t keep them all, you know . . .

Crushed a few mugs? Echols shows what she means by picking up a newly-formed piece. It’s not quite dry.

ECHOLS: You literally take it in your hands and crush it. [LAUGHS] See! You’re shocked! You’re shocked!

She says she makes too many pieces to take them all home. Maybe that’s why landscape artist Joshua Wilson is focused on completing just one demonstration piece. He’s doing what the French call plein air painting.

WILSON: We've got our oil paints. Uh, we brought all of our brushes. These are French easels, which are really great because it allows us to pack everything up in these nice little boxes and take them wherever we go.

Wilson is an art professor at Liberty University. Students’ work is displayed under the tent, and onlookers are voting for a people’s choice award. He says it’s important for students to have competitions and shows, and the pandemic affected those opportunities.

WILSON: As everything kind of opens up here at the end, it’s been a very busy season because we’ve been kind of one, two, three four and just kind of event after event . . .

Wilson particularly enjoys outdoor shows like this one, because he encourages his students to look to God’s creation as their standard for excellence in creativity. He uses a term from J.R.R. Tolkien.

WILSON: He described us as sub-creators. So, this way they can continue to, uh, create work that hopefully glorifies God and, uh, continues to show off His attributes.

On top of the hill, the action is a little more laid back. Families chalking it up.

MOM: Let’s scribble. Scribble, scribble, scribble . . .

Kids using coffee filters and pipe cleaners to make butterflies.

CLEMENT: Color down the middle.

KIDS: Yeah. Color all the way down the middle, just like this.

No outdoor event would be complete without a food truck, and here, it’s Hardman’s Smoke Stack.

CUSTOMER: Can I get a smoked chicken sandwich?

Owner Nate Hardman describes one of their hot items—piggy fries.

HARDMAN: Piggy fries are french fries covered with, uh, barbecue, sour cream, cheese, and scallions. Something different.

From food trucks to portrait painting, the scene is colorful. Alive. A real picture of what organizer Rachel Smith says pandemic recovery can look like.

SMITH: People are excited. They're just so happy to be back out in society and really interacting with others. They're excited to be back in events . . .

MUSIC: SATURDAY IN THE PARK BY CHICAGO

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kim Henderson in Lynchburg, Virginia.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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