Most teachers know how to stretch a buck, but a few hundred dollars doesn't go far when it comes to items like paintbrushes, poster board, fabric, paints, and clay. Some have been known to use pieces of cardboard boxes for canvases, while others make up the difference out of their own pockets. In a perfect world, public school arts programs would be valued and supplies would be plentiful, but even in the best of times, art programs struggle to get what they need.
Since 2004, the Charleston Fine Art Dealers' Association has donated proceeds from the Fine Art Annual's Painting in the Park auction to local high school art programs. In eight years, the organization has handed over $180,000. "The teachers start crying when they come to pick up their checks each year," says CFADA President and Horton Hayes Fine Art Gallery Director Cindy Hayes.
According to North Charleston high school art teacher Lynn Finklestein, the funds are something of a necessity. "Without the event, North Charleston High School's art program would cease to exist," she says. "Most of the students at NCHS do not have the financial means to purchase such art materials."
After an lecture Wednesday and an art stroll Friday evening, 25 artists will gather in Washington Park on Saturday morning. Landscape artist Chris Groves has participated in Painting in the Park for the last five years and says it's a great opportunity to talk with other artists. Laurie Meyer says she looks forward to the day because it allows her to connect with the public. "I'm always amazed and often entertained by the questions and comments from those who enjoy watching the process of a painting from start to finish," she says. Meyer paints a variety of subject matter from figures to still lifes and architecture. She will have five new paintings at the Wells Gallery that are inspired by poetic writings and inspirational quotes about trees and nature from John Muir and Walt Whitman.
Meanwhile, an outdoor juried exhibition of outstanding works by high school students will be held in conjunction with Painting in the Park.
For fans of fine art, Painting in the Park and the silent auction give viewers the unique opportunity to observe the artistic process from beginning to end — and to help out the next generation of artists at the same time.