Some of Western North Carolina’s “hidden artists” will be revealed on Saturday, Oct. 6, at the upcoming Colorfest: Art & Taste of Appalachia in Dillsboro, where the artists will demonstrate their expertise in front of the shop of the Dillsboro merchant who is sponsoring their artwork. Close to 30 artisans will descend upon Dillsboro for one day — Saturday, Oct. 6, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. —where you can find them and their easels underneath colorful umbrellas strewn throughout the small historic walkabout town.
Tucked Away Artists
Diane Halasz and Sheryl Bessette are two very different artists who have been tucked away in Cherokee County, in the town of Murphy, the westernmost county seat of North Carolina, with its origin dating back to 1839.
Halasz, a member of the Appalachian Heritage Crafters of Murphy, turned her love of painting into a vocation seven years ago when she began painting her local mountain scenery. Two years ago, she began painting on rocks. Her bright colors of acrylic began to transform pieces of brick, stone and rock into houses, churches, stores, and more. With painted rocks that take on the images of houses resembling those in the Dr. Seuss stories, Halasz has created her own way of building a town.
Always mesmerized by watercolor paintings, Sheryl Bessette, a member of the Valley River Arts Guild in Murphy, says in 2007 she embarked on a journey that would revolutionize her life forever . . . she became addicted to "the movement of the paint." Even as a child growing up in the country, Bessette lost herself in "listening to nature." She recently named one of her paintings, "Listening to Winter." Last year, one of Bessette's paintings was the cover of the Mountain Review, a publication out of Clayton, Ga.
Colorfest will add the sights and sounds of traditional mountain music, for local musician/singers-Ron Smith, Henry Queen, Pam Dengler, Keith Shuler, The Ross Brothers, Robin Whitley, and Teresa Davis will also be spaced throughout the town, demonstrating their talents with the guitar, the fiddle, the banjo and voice.
A People Out of Sight
Not only will there be visual artists during ColorFest, but among the booths lining Front Street during the festival will be authors of local books and other demonstrating vendors. One author is Victoria A. Casey McDonald, an African American who grew up in Jackson County.
McDonald has penned two books, “The African Americans of Jackson County,” and the recently released “Just Over the Hill.” McDonald, teacher, author and storyteller, has written about a people hidden away in the hollows of the mountains. With knowledge of the history of the county and the African Americans who helped make the scattered black communities into one united community, and the hobby of saving all the newspaper articles she could throughout the years, she has pieced the stories together. With her books, not only has McDonald documented a culture and saved the stories, but she has forever placed her Western North Carolina people into human history.
Another touch of heritage close by will be David Ammons, who will be demonstrating his vanishing, vintage art of chair caning. "We don't have to make our own ‘necessary furniture’ today," Ammons says, "but I truly enjoy thinking about the history behind caning as I sit down in front of someone's old chair weaving a new 'bottom' for it. If old chairs could talk, what stories they could tell.”
The Taste of Appalachia
But it's the aroma of homemade Amish apple butter that will, for some, turn back the hand of time and take you back to when fall was the time to peel apples and help Grandma make apple butter. Turning the wooden paddle, Conrad Brown and the Catch the Spirit of Appalachia crew will be set up near the railroad track, with the copper kettle hung over a wood fire. A survivor of colonial America, apple butter with its taste of cinnamon, continues to be popular well into the 20th century . . . long simmering, preserved and saved by the family for the future.
Also, along Front Street near the railroad tracks will be vendors sharing their expertise with food and wine tasting.
For more information, contact the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce at (800) 962-1911. To learn more about Dillsboro: www.visitdillsboro.org.