Thanks to a matching grant from the Georgia Council for the Arts, a popular family event that promotes local art is set to become an annual tradition.
The inaugural “There is ART in SpARTa” 2017 art festival, sponsored by Sparta’s CJE Foundation, will return to Hancock County as “ART in SpARTa: The Sequel.” The free event will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 28 at the CJE Event Center in Sparta and will offer family entertainment and activities to visitors, while giving local and area artists a chance to showcase and market their work.
Entertainment will be provided by, among others, Mike Ransom, Jr., The Animal Adventurer, and The Metro Knoxville Buffalo Soldiers, a group representing the real life African American army units that played a role in settling the American west in the 1800s. In the vendor area, visitors to the festival will be able to browse and purchase local art.
Festival Coordinator Carolyn Minter said the goal of the festival is to bring an economic boost to a largely impoverished area while spreading the message that local artists and art are present in the community.
“We had our first festival in 2017 with the intent of discovering or actually exposing artists in our community,” said Minter. “Because of the nature of our community, it’s important to look at all possible entrepreneurial opportunities, and we wanted to do this for artists in the county and surrounding.”
Participants in the festival said that it offers a chance to showcase their work that they wouldn’t otherwise be offered.
Candi Fortney, who worked the Oasis Family Farm booth at the event in 2017, will participate again this year. She said the event points to Sparta as “an actual place where artists can be and might be.” Her family lives just outside Sparta and practices a variety of art, including photography, wire wrap jewelry and painting.
“We took part in it last year, and it was a wonderful event,” Fortney said. “It allows other people that normally wouldn’t get to see us in this format. We’re closer to home and we can bring our art out and display it better. We represent the community in a little bit different light than maybe people have seen it.”
The festival is also instrumental in promoting art among youth, Minter said.
Sisters Lauren (13) and Hannah (14) Reed will participate for the first time this year.
“We make aprons and table runners and baby quilts,” said Lauren Reed. “We started about five years ago making little pillows and little things to sell to pretend customers that we had.”
The sisters used the names “Sarah” and “Allison” and pretended to own the “S and A Sewing Store.” Now they sell their work to real customers, keeping the same name.
“It’s going to be helpful to promote our business,” said Lauren Reed. “We’ve been selling things by word of mouth, so I think this will be helpful for people to know us better.”
To promote art among youth, CJE is offering free vendor registration to those 18 and younger and college students. Otherwise, booth space will cost $25 for Hancock County residents and $50 for non-residents.
The CJE foundation was founded by and named after Sparta natives Connie and Josie Williams to provide economic stimulus through free events and has been active in the community for nine years.
“They employ at least 10 people at any given time, so they really do support the community,” said Minter of CJE. “They wanted to do at least three free community festivals. This (art festival) aligned with their business plan to provide festivals that engage the community in positive venues.”
In 2017, CJE worked with Georgia Council for the Arts to receive a grant to cover expenses and “There is ART in SpARTa” exceeded expectations with 30 individual artist booths and over 300 visitors. Minter said she hopes to triple those numbers in 2018.
Georgia Council for the Arts has given the festival a $5,000 matching grant for 2018. Since it is a matching grant, CJE needs sponsorships from the community to receive the full amount, Minter said. Current sponsors include the Hancock County Board of Commissioners and Webster’s Pharmacy.