Bobby McCree III
palmettoreport@gmail.com

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Around 20 artists from across the U.S., including some from Winthrop University, showcased their work Nov. 16 at the Center for the Arts in Rock Hill, drawing a crowd of roughly 125 people.

The Studio Artist Showcase, hosted by the Arts Council of York County, featured a reception and portrait drawing contest that allowed artists to display a variety of works, including illustrations and pottery.

“I hope the art events we host enlighten and cultivate conversation and give Rock Hill and York County its voice for creative expression,” said Michael Gentry, gallery manager for the Arts Council.

“I was happy to be a part of the community and demonstrate what I can do,” said Michael Sorrow, an artist from Rock Hill who participated in the showcase.

“It’s fun to see all the artists, who are local that I don’t know, come out to this event and we’re all in the same place at the same time and so that is just a fun experience by itself,” said Sorrow.

“It brings awareness to local people that do local art and you don’t have to travel to get great art,” said Katherine Petke, a professional potter and owner of Downtown Artistry in Rock Hill.

“They’re right here in their backyard,” she said. “The Arts Council is fabulous. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without them.”

In September, the Arts Council commissioned Petke to create beer vases with faces on them for Legal Remedy Brewing, because they wanted “to mix a little bit of art with a little bit of beer,” she said.

Many of her vases were on display at the exhibit.

One of the goals of the showcase is to “encourage the interaction between businesses and the arts community; the patron and the artist,” said Kirk Irwin, executive director of the Friday Arts Project, a non-profit curation group located in the Gettys Art Center.

The group has partnered with the Arts Council to develop other art programs, including a three-day visual and performing arts event called Art Party.

The events promote “the small, but strong arts community of Rock Hill,” said Irwin.

“We have performing arts events. We got a competitive portrait-drawing event and it’s to draw more people into the Old Town area and get to know what is available here,” said Melanie Cooper, marketing and communications specialist for the Arts Council.

“You don’t have to go to a big box store to put affordable artwork on your wall or to begin your art collection. You can do it with art that is made by people who live in your community.”

Cooper said Rock Hill’s art industry is “booming and growing” and she attributes some of the success to Winthrop’s art program.

“We see a lot of students graduate and stay in the area, which has been wonderful, because it has infused Rock Hill with youthful energy,” she said.

However, Petke said an appreciation and passion for art can begin at any age.

“The age range is from 10 to 80. You’re never too old and you’re never too young,” said Petke.

Copper said she expects growth from the art programs in Rock Hill and she hopes future events will bring more foot traffic into the city.

“We love to have Winthrop students come to our events. A lot of them are cultural credit events, which is fantastic. We love to see folks come and learn about what the community has to offer our artists who are here in the community. We would love to see more folks come down,” said Cooper.