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July 23, 2014

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Art in the Park founder dies

This oil portrait of Edith Ferguson Carter was painted when she was 21 years old by her art professor, Milton Hull, in Richmond, Virginia. Image submitted
This oil portrait of Edith Ferguson Carter was painted when she was 21 years old by her art professor, Milton Hull, in Richmond, Virginia. Image submitted
Published: 11:01 AM, 05/22/2014 Last updated: 11:02 AM, 05/22/2014

Author: By Jeff Eason
Source: The Blowing Rocket

In 1962, World War II veteran and local businessman Bob Snyder mentioned to an art teacher that he was looking for a way to enliven Blowing Rock in the summer months and get some more tourists to visit.

Snyder said, “We need something going on in this park. What about an outdoor art exhibit?”

That art teacher, Edith Ferguson Carter, thought about it and decided that Blowing Rock Memorial Park would be a perfect place for regional artists to show off their work and maybe even sell a few pieces.

Carter dubbed it “Art in the Park.”

Carter, who helped found Blowing Rock’s Art in the Park and directed the outdoor art exhibits for nearly 20 years, died at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem on Monday, May 12, after recently being diagnosed with cancer.

A memorial service was held for Carter at her family cemetery in Ferguson on Friday, May 16, with Rev. David Blythe of Beaver Creek Advent Christian Church officiating.

After coming up with the idea of Art in the Park in 1962, Carter was the event’s director until 1980.

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,” said Cullie Tarleton during a special celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the event in 2012.

“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.”

Before serving as the director for Art in the Park, Carter had a career as a graphic designer. In the 1950s, she illustrated the story of Tom Dooley, a story of a love triangle and murder that fascinated her for the rest of her life.

In addition to her work with Art in the Park, Carter became one of the founders of the Wilkes Art Gallery in North Wilkesboro, was chosen as the N.C. State Grange Woman of the Year, was the Grand Marshal of the Wilkes County Christmas Parade and was the Grange Arts and Crafts director for 25 years. In 2012 she was chosen as the Rotary Citizen of the Year in North Wilkesboro.

Many school children knew Carter as the creator of the Whippoorwill Academy and Village. One of her passions was collecting old buildings and moving them to her family farm. Before long, she had enough old buildings to establish Whippoorwill Village, where she created an educational experience for thousands of students and a draw for tourism.

Weddings and other special events continue to be held at the village.

Carter was also one of the forces behind Daniel Boone Day, an annual event celebrating the storied pioneer who lived at three different home sites in Ferguson. The event attracted thousands of people as and focused on the talents of local artists, craftspeople, dancers and musicians, who gave visitors a wonderful glimpse into our local heritage.

“There is no way we could explain to you who Edith was,” said Tony Deal, a longtime family friend. “Words simply won’t work. You have a better chance of describing a sunset to a blind man or helping a deaf person feel the passion of Doc Watson’s guitar than you have of limiting Edith Carter to a one page, online obituary…and that one will never know how to describe Edith Carter until his life is touched by an Edith Carter.”

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