White globe lights, live music and friendly faces welcomed art lovers of all ages to the outdoor Arts on the Coast Fall Art Show on Saturday at the Richmond Court shopping plaza outside of Leahy Art Gallery.
Arts on the Coast is a nonprofit network of artists who planned the show. Over a dozen members, comprised of local artists including painters, photographers, sculptors, musicians and culinary artists, participated in the casual meet-and-greet reception.
Brooke Brewster, 9, one of the youngest art enthusiasts present Saturday, is an aspiring painter with a flair for abstract art.
“When you look at it, you can find patterns. This looks like fireworks, and this looks like a boat,” she said as she admired the abstract piece “Analytical Infatuation,” by Jamie Niles.
Marina Flores, 7, was at the show with her mom, Nina Flores, whose paintings were on display.
“She’s the greatest artist I know,” Marina said. “I can’t believe she’s my mom. She’s a great artist. She teaches me to draw, and I paint a lot.”
The show drew rave reviews from attendees.
“It makes me want to be a part of it next year, with my photography,” local resident Brandi Carter said.
With a yearly art auction, bi-annual art shows, quarterly critique parties and weekly small gatherings between artist friends, AOTC has remained active for 12 years.
“We are very kind. We don’t have harsh critiques,” longtime AOTC member Kathy Hatcher said. Four times a year, visual artists and guests gather to inspire and each other.
“It’s a great group of people with a wide range of talent, great for mentoring, and a lot of fun,” member Peach Hubbard said.
Samplings from AOTC include paintings at the new Bryan County Administrative Building across from Belfast River Road, Espresso Hill and the Urgent Care Center near Kroger. Individual artists loan display paintings, which are all available for sale.
“[The Bryan County Administrative Building] had an open house and they didn’t have any art. Someone asked if they could borrow a painting. All of a sudden, it became, ‘I wonder if AOTC could give us a lot of paintings to decorate’,” Vice President Sarah Volker said. “It decorates the building nicely. Those paintings do not belong to the county; they are actually for sale.”
Displaying art in community spaces is just the beginning of what AOTC would like to bring to the area. Eventually, the group hopes to convince city and county officials to invest in a cultural-arts center.
“The one thing Richmond Hill seems to lack is a strong cultural-arts center,” Volker said. “There is something really special about Richmond Hill and Bryan County. It’s rich in history and culture. People want to come and live here, but if someone is looking for a place to move, and if their children want to sing, paint or [be involved in] art ... [AOTC] wants to be that last piece of the puzzle … a cog in the wheel of what makes Richmond Hill Richmond Hill.”
Until then, AOTC members continue to stay involved in other ways. Last spring, some artists donated paintings for an art auction at the Bamboo Farm in Chatham County. Proceeds went toward enhancing the educational building at the farm, Volker said.
AOTC membership is open to the public. Dues range from $15 to $75 and higher. Applications are at the Leahy Art Gallery in Richmond Hill or at artsonthecoast.org. The group also is looking for volunteers to lead community movements.