I visited Elizabeth City, NC for their "Splash Week" Artists weekend.
In May I got an email from Jane Filer, a wonderful local artist who I took a studio class from long ago, inviting me to an unusual event:
SPLASH WEEK! a gathering of artists and all creative folks
Pack up the tools of your creativity and head to Elizabeth City for the sixth annual SPLASH! -- a time especially for you to dive into your talented spirit in the creative world of Elizabeth City, NC.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
through Sunday, June 8, 2014
Come when you can and stay as long as you can.
You’ll spend your days immersed in your own creative endeavor at your own special spot...
the banks of the Pasquotank, the bow of a boat, the meadow of a farmer’s field, a private garden, an old shipyard, a swamp filled with Cypress trees, a studio in a historic downtown building, or in our fabulous Arts of the Albemarle.
I'm ordinarily too shy to do something like this, but I've been feeling a little lonely lately, so why not? I packed up some painting supplies and also a portable keyboard and I headed over to Elizabeth City, a place I'd never seen before.
When I arrived, they helped me move my gear into a giant vacant building next to the Arts Council. There were already lots of people with their easels set up, painting or schmoozing. I had decided to use this time as a retreat to practice the piano so I set up way, way back in the back of the building where there was an electric outlet.
This is the block of historic downtown Elizabeth City that was our headquarters, with the art council and the studio next door. I put on my headphones and practiced silently most of the time, but it was great to be around other happy people doing what made their hearts sing. I would say "artists" here was a self-diagnosed condition - there were paintings and creations from the sublime to the ridiculous - which actually added to the easy-going atmosphere.
Wednesday night there was a wonderful "Low Country Boil" - some caterers in a truck threw vats of spicy shrimp, potatoes, and corn onto tables covered with newspaper and people just picked up the treats with their fingers and put them in bowls and ate massive amounts - beer was also not lacking. Tout le monde turned out for great food...
... and to bid on painted chairs, proceeds to the local arts. Here you see them loaded up on the way to the Peels' house: the shrimp boil was held at the home of the mayor and his wife, Joe and Carolyn Peel. They also amazingly let me stay at their wonderful house which is full of folk art and right across the street from the huge, beautiful river. Look:
Like most small North Carolina towns, Elizabeth City is trying to figure out how to thrive in the 21st century. Its primary advantage, and it's a huge one, is the beautiful confluence of rivers. The coastline where all these rivers come together is almost a fractal, and it seems like everybody who has a home along the river has a pier and a lovely view. But the rest of the county is really suffering. I hope the current efforts to find economic possibilities for the area are successful. And I look forward to going back to Elizabeth City for the next artists retreat.