Art For Art’s sake wraps May festivals

by Jordan Green

Ralph Shaw was spinning beach music classics at the intersection of Trade and 6th streets in Winston-Salem’s downtown arts district on Sunday afternoon.

He segued from Brooks Benton’s sexy baritone in “It’s Just a Matter of Time” to the Swinging Medallions’ infectious “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love,” and then gave a shout-out to the Italian-ice vendor.

So went the final installment of the spring season of Arts on Sunday, a street fair with a heavy emphasis on art, or an arts exposition with the additional draws of music and food. Either way, it’s a family-friendly event designed to promote arts and community and get people involved as vendors and customers.

Surveying the scene at Winston-Salem’s most artistic crossroads was Julie Knabb, one of the cofounders of sponsoring organization Art For Art’s Sake.

“In the arts district you didn’t really see too many artists on the street when we started,” Knabb said. “The galleries were closed on Sundays, so this got them to open up.”

Art For Art’s Sake launched five years ago, and has signed up more than 70 artists as members. The organization opened Red Dog Gallery on Trade Street about a year and a half ago, and plans to open Unleashed Art Center, a venue for workshops, studio space and meetings, on 6th Street in a couple weeks. A revolving public art display on the 6th Street and a Mannequin Shenanigans installation at locations across the city are both in the works. And board members are already planning the next series of street festivals for the group’s signature event, Arts on Sunday, to take place in October.

“It’s been a wild ride,” Knabb said. “Everything’s happened over the past five years. It’s just mushroomed. We didn’t give up.”

Art For Art’s Sake’s membership includes artists and artisans who work in a wide range of media from jewelry and handbags to stained glass, oil painting and henna art, and the street festival’s offerings reflect that eclecticism.

Alson Wheeler has been coming to Arts on Sunday to display his colored-pencil renderings since October.

His pieces often feature a subtly articulated female figure in different settings – in the water, on beaches and in forests.

“I’m trying to get at the loneliness of all women because since the beginning of history they’ve been treated as the other,” he said. “My youngest daughter, my third child, paid me the ultimate compliment. She went off on men – you know, slobs, they leave the seat up, that kind of thing. She said, ‘But Daddy, you’re not a man; you’re a father.’ She gave me a big hug.

“She wanted to vent, and I was there for her,” Wheeler continued, adding that he was relieved to find he had earned an exemption from his daughter’s condemnation.

Chuck and Stephanie Kiger of Midway are typical of artists who have worked their membership in Art For Art’s Sake into a serious venture. Art For Art’s Sake helped them with pricing and presentation. They brought some pieces to Red Dog Gallery on a First Friday, and made their first sale that weekend. Art For Art’s Sake helped, but the Kigers have drive and a unique offering – rusted tin art.

Birds are mounted or hanging from wire. Letters and peace signs dangle in mobiles. Daisies rise from panels. Tin is pressed into hearts and flowers for earrings.

Tin art gave Chuck and Stephanie something to do together. Their business will make a major stride on Friday with the opening of the new handcraft and vintage store Eclection in Kernersville, where they will rent permanent display space.

“One of these days I will write a book about how art saved my marriage,” Chuck Kiger said, “and maybe prolonged my life.”