The annual meeting of the Friends of the Macon County Public Library will be held at the library on Sunday June 2, at 2 p.m. The event will feature a public reception for Cherokee artist Joel Queen and the formal presentation of a pottery piece he designed and created for the library. The piece will be on permanent display at the library following the meeting.
The large pot has a design of seven Carolina parakeets in a flock formation. The eye of each bird is marked with a Macon County ruby. The pot was funded in part with proceeds of the Jim McRae Endowment for the Visual Arts, and represents the first project of the endowment. Jim’s widow, Barbara McRae, matched the $500 grant from the endowment with a donation in memory of her mother, Mary Sears, who died in 2011.
“Joel made it possible to do this significant project by reducing his normal commission fee,” McRae said. “I am grateful to him and to the Friends, who commissioned Scott Danals, a local crafter, to build a custom display case for the piece.”
McRae said the project brings together many important elements.
“My husband had great admiration for traditional Cherokee arts and crafts and was part Cherokee himself,” she said. “He also shared my love of nature. The motif of Carolina parakeets is not only beautiful, but, given that these once-common birds are extinct, also serves as a poignant reminder of the fragility of life. The rubies are a special touch, as gems have such an important place in Macon County history. To have all these elements come together in an exquisite piece of art for the endowment’s first project is remarkable.”
McRae said it was important to her that the artist is from the area, and that the case was locally crafted.
“I was married to an artist for 38 years,” McRae said. “My experience taught me what artists go through, and how much they offer the world. Through the endowment, I hope to continue to connect artists and the public, to the benefit of both.”
Queen, a member of the Eastern Band and a descendant of the Bigmeat family, is a ninth-generation potter who is helping to preserve the traditions of Cherokee pottery. He often blends traditional and modern designs, and he works as a sculptor and wood carver as well as a potter. He has won awards nationwide and his pieces are displayed in several museums, including the North Carolina Museum of History.
The McRae endowment honors the memory of artist Jim McRae, who died on Dec. 7, 2010. The fund was established through the Macon County Community Foundation, an affiliate of the North Carolina Community Foundation (NCCF).
A local group, the Association for the Visual Arts (AVA), serves as an advisory board for the McRae endowment. Members are Ashley Harllee, Karen Kenny, Tom Ritter, Hank Shuler, Russ Gale, Janice Cumming, Karen Wallace, Cherry Jackson, Rachel Hoskins and Norma Hendrix.
For more information about the reception, call the Macon County Public Library at (828)524-3600. For additional information about the art of Jim McRae, the endowment in his name, or AVA, see www.mcraestudio.com. Additional works by Joel Queen can be seen on his website at www.joelqueengallery.com.