Art in the Park honors founders
Eight artists, including now renowned painter Bob Timberlake, set up shop in Blowing Rock Memorial Park for three days in June, July and August. The entry fee was $1 per artist and they utilized things such as funeral stands and clotheslines to display their work.
Thus, Art in the Park was born.
Today, Art in the Park features nearly 100 artist booths and is held monthly from May through October.
Art in the Park celebrated its 50th anniversary Sept. 8 with live music from the Lucky Strike Classic Jazz band, an artists’ reception, an exhibit of art from years past, and a tribute to the people who gave it its start.
“Back in the 1960s, World War II paratrooper and local businessman, Robert L. S. Snyder, better known as ‘Bob,” mentioned to Edith Carter, an art teacher at Caldwell and Wilkes county high schools, that there needed to be something special added to the town of Blowing Rock to bring in more tourists and activity,” said Cullie Tarleton during Saturday’s presentation of the first Art in the Park Founders Award.
“Bob had moved to this beautiful town of Blowing Rock at a time when everything closed down after leaf season. He loved this area and felt that everyone else should enjoy it all year long like he did,” Tarleton said. “He said, ‘We need something going on in this park. What about an outdoor art exhibit?’”
“As an artist and art teacher with a strong desire to exhibit and to see other artists exhibit their work, Edith gave the idea some thought. This became the seed of an idea that Edith later grew into what she dubbed ‘Art in the Park,’ one of the first juried outdoor art shows designed to showcase local talent,” he said.
The first show in 1962 featured eight artists from Lenoir and Wilkesboro. The success of Blowing Rock’s Art in the Park spurred other outdoor art events in Western North Carolina.
“Edith continued to coordinate and grow the festival with the help of her two daughters until around 1980, when one of her daughters, Margaret, took over,” Tarleton said. “In 1982, the town of Blowing Rock took the reins, and eventually, the chamber of commerce took over. Several years ago, Art in the Park was moved from Memorial Park to the American Legion grounds. Coincidentally, Bob Snyder had also been instrumental in the efforts to fund and build the American Legion Hall.”
In a ceremony at Memorial Park’s gazebo, Tarleton presented Edith Carter with the Founders Award. He then presented a Special Recognition Award plaque to Carter and Shirley Snyder, Bob Snyder’s widow. The plaque will hang in the Blowing Rock American Legion building on Wallingford Street.
“This is the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce’s very small way of saying thank you and that we recognize Edith Carter’s and Bob Snyder’s very valuable contribution to the town of Blowing Rock way back in 1962,” Tarleton said.
Carter accepted the awards along with her daughters, Margaret Martine and Sharon Underwood.
Blowing Rock’s Art in the Park 50th anniversary celebration was presented by the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by the Arts at Appalachian.