I was in Lake City today where ArtFields was in full swing. The 10-day event is a celebration of all things creative, and features the largest art competition in the Southeast. Hundreds of artists compete for $100,000 in cash prizes, displaying their art in more than 50 downtown businesses, outdoor spaces and other venues. While I sat in the Downtown Bakery & Deli, people were wandering in off the wind-swept streets to view the spectacular art on the walls behind me – and if they wanted to, they could then vote for their favorite piece. Public votes factor into the top $50,000 prize, and a panel of visual art professionals name the $25,000 juried panel prize-winner.
The event is part of a larger effort to put Lake City on the map. When I first visited five years ago, there was barely a traffic signal to light up the city, but now crumbling buildings have been transformed into high-class restaurants, cafes, shops and museums, and a boutique hotel will be opening in the fall. The Lake City Partnership Council is the key impetus behind this revitalization, with Darla Moore the catalyst supporting this economic development group that has invested generously in the rehabilitation of Lake City. As a vehicle for economic revitalization, artistic expression, and community pride, Artfields itself attracts thousands of visitors, providing an estimated $5.4 million impact for Lake City community, and incalculable benefits for the merchants, artists, and citizens of the Pee Dee. More information about the festival can be found at http://www.artfieldssc.org/