The first week of November marks the start of the Wildlife Arts Festival season in Thomasville and the feeling of ‘art in the air’ is most apparent along the city’s brick streets where festival organizers hang their tickets. iconic hand-painted signs on lampposts and in Broad Street and West Jackson. The colorful designs are the work of local artist Cindy Inman, who owns a studio in downtown Thomasville and is a longtime friend of the Thomasville Center for the Arts.
âI’m always excited to see my circle panels go up,â Inman said. âIt was a fun challenge creating graphics with vivid colors and designs, and they always get great feedback. “
Inman’s work will also be on display at the festival’s fine art exhibit this year, along with paintings, sculptures and photographs by 37 other juror artists.
Inman’s 2dog Studio on Clay Street is a few blocks from the Creative District and the UnVacant Lot – a space that was reallocated and reactivated in 2016 by the Center for the Arts, with help from a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and the support of Hurst Boiler and Ashley HomeStore, to serve as a public art center in the then booming new neighborhood of Thomasville. Now full of energy, the UnVacant Lot anchors the Creative District and has been the backdrop for eight public art installations over the past five years.
Katherine Sandoz, a painter, illustrator, and designer from Savannah, was drawn to Thomasville and the surrounding Red Hills region by the longleaf pine forests, grasses and streams, and the rubs of red clay. Her work has taken her across the country, from Lake Tahoe to New Hampshire, capturing the beauty of the natural world. But since the summer, Sandoz has planted temporary roots in Thomasville ahead of the 26th Annual Wildlife Arts Festival, presented by the Thomasville Center for the Arts from November 11-21.
Selected as this year’s featured artist, Sandoz is already splashing its vibrant hits across town. His dandelion (Pineland) + pine coin graces the cover of THOM magazine’s 16th issue, and the UnVacant Lot has been his playground since early October. There, his mural project titled On Location was made with practical help from the community.
“Katherine gave me a pot of color and ‘overall’ direction, and a few hours went by in the blink of an eye,” said Haile McCollum of her experience as a volunteer painter for the mural. by Sandoz.
“I have never worked with an artist on their own work – the process was new to me – but easy to embrace after a few initial strokes.”
McCollum owns Fontaine Maury, a branding and design company located in the heart of the Creative District. The corner of UnVacant Lot can be seen from his office on the edge of the Ritz Amphitheater.
McCollum is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Center for the Arts, has been active in the design process and vision for the Creative District, and shares the Centre’s interest in the integration of public art and the creation of places in urban planning.
âOpening up art to participation in the eyes of the community is one way to demystify the process,â says McCollum. “It helps people understand that creative expression isn’t always about an artist working alone in a studio.”
Bring people together
Encouraging artistic expression and connecting people to each other are top priorities for the Thomasville Center for the Arts. So much so that it is literally the published mission of the association.
âArt heals,â said Michele Arwood, executive director of the Center. âIt’s invigorating, community building and stimulating mentally, emotionally and spiritually. And we strive every day to bring the gift of art to Thomasville.
Arwood says the Wildlife Arts Festival is particularly exciting this year, returning to its historic grandeur after the pandemic forced a “reinvented” festival in 2020.
âWe were honored with such a supportive and generous community that supported us when last year’s festival was a little different from what guests expected,â said Arwood. âOur underwriters have really stepped up and continued to dream big with us through it all, and this year we’re excited to deal with them.â
âThe festival has an economic impact in southwest Georgia,â Turner said. âMost people don’t realize what we have here, and this gives us the opportunity to show it. “
The exhibition and sale of works of art are free and open to the public. Visitors can expect to see work by local artists like Inman, Center for the Arts artist in residence Ron Thomson and photographer Adam Bozeman, who works as a dentist on South Dawson Street during the day.
But the festival’s talent competition is also vast, with artists traveling to South Georgia from as far away as Oregon (Amy Lay), Maryland (Eddie Wozny) and South Africa (Michelle Decker).
âIt’s quite impressive to bring together more than 35 renowned artists in one space,â said festival director Mariam Mirabzadeh. “The caliber of fine art on display is remarkable and provides a very unique learning experience for visitors of all ages.”
Capitalizing on the opportunity to expose people of all ages and backgrounds to the fine arts, the exhibition and sale will be a free event this year.
âWe don’t want there to be any obstacles for people to visit the festival and see the art,â Mirabzadeh said. “Come spend your Saturday or Sunday with us, and bring the whole family.”
Something for everyone
Anchor of art exhibition aside, the Festival is not limited to the fine arts. It is a solid 10 days celebrating the entire expanse of the territory and the sporting life of our region. The program of events will kick off on Thursday 11 November with an opening reception and THOM magazine launch party at the UnVacant Lot, followed by a weekend in the woods with the sixth annual Red Hills Rover rally and the new Whiskey event. in the Woods.
A series of workshops, including courses in floral design, painting and art for young people, provide visitors with a creative outlet, and an evening ‘out of the woods’ offers guests intimate, organized moments and creative conversation with Sandoz, Canaan Marshall from HBO’s “Full Bloom”. food blogger Libbie Summers and Suzette Bussey of Norton and Hodges.
The art exhibit and sale also includes a preview evening, craft market, and Land & Lore lectures, where storytellers and experts from Tall Timbers, the Aucilla Research Institute, Quail Forever and the National Wild Turkey Foundation share their traditions and expertise on the importance of conserving our swamp pine forests and regional ecosystems. Special guest Durrell Smith of “The Gundog Notebook” will record his podcast live during the lectures.
“It’s been a busy few weeks,” said festival president Kate Scovil. âA tremendous amount of planning, energy and manpower on the part of Center staff and our dozens of dedicated volunteers helps ensure that every experience is artistic, educational and memorable. And this is the biggest takeaway that we hope guests have – that they reflect on the festival and say to themselves “wow, Thomasville really has something special, and I can’t wait to come back to see the news and exciting creative adventures they have â. He will drive me afterwards.
A full calendar of events, tickets and subscriber packages is available at thomasvillearts.org/wildlife-arts-festival, or call the Thomasville Center for the Arts at 229-226-0588.