Two downtown galleries opened the fourth Friday in September to host their two yearly competitions, the annual Photography Competition and the annual Nellie Smith Ceramic Competition. Both exhibits will remain in place until October and November for visitors to the Fayetteville Arts Council or the Cape Fear Studios.
    For the Annual Photography Competition the Fayetteville Arts Council decided upon the theme Unity in Our Community. In place until Nov. 22, 2008, Unity in Our Community was conceived as a complementary theme, opening during the weekend of the 30th International Folk Festival.                                                         Calvin Sims, the arts services coordinator for the Arts Council, commented on the results of the exhibit: “We were surprised at everyone’s interpretation of the idea of unity; what we learned is that interpretation of unity by photographers is very diverse. From processionals to amateurs, our gallery walls are filled with images that are as diverse as the Fayetteville community.”

    {mosimage}The gallery is filled with photographs that range from the emotional to landscapes; special moments to interpretations of the figure in an environment, the laugh of a child to the moment families are separated as they leave for Iraq. Sims commented, “Yes, the artist’s interpretation of a theme is broad, but it’s pleasing to see broad interpretation; after all, it is our similarities and our differences that unify us.”
    The juror for Unity in Our Community was Theresa Olier, a local photographer who owns her own business. Olier specializes in photographing children, family portraits and photographing on location.
    For the first place award, Olier selected Tearful Departure by Andrew Craft — a color photograph of a woman, arms around a child wearing red, she raises her hand to the open window of a bus, and her hand touches the extended hand of what is probably her husband.
    Second place went to Steve Kennedy for a digital color photo titled Water Fall in Brevard. Third place was tied between two digital photographs: A Mother’s Love by Stephanie Bruce and Show-Nuff by Jonathon Diaz.
    Diaz was one of five artists who participated from the art program at Fayetteville State University. Shane Booth, the photography professor at FSU encouraged his students to participate with their large format prints. The large prints were hung together at the Art Center; Booth’s influence was easily recognizable in the work of April Harmon, Katherine Ortiz, and Diaz. In the spirit of a competition, even Professor Socorro Hernandez from FSU exhibited two of her photographs of architectural cites on campus.
    Of the 23 artists who participated, many were familiar names from past photo competitions. Photographers like Sonja Rothstein and Alphonso Peppers were exhibiting in their usual highly competent and creative style.
    {mosimage}As well, many new photographers are showing us snapshots of their lives, a journey to foreign places and moments they interpret as unity in the community. With so much diversity in the subject matter, I asked Sims about the public’s response to the exhibit. He readily commented, “We have had very positive responses, every visitor to the gallery will find something they can relate to!”
    Upon leaving Unity in the Community, you can walk ablock down on Maxwell Street, behind the arts council, and visit the Cape Fear Studios to see the annual Nellie Smith Commemorative Ceramic Competition; this year it is their 14th competition, the exhibit will remain up until Oct. 22, 2008.
    Juror for the competition was Joyce Bryan, owner of Stone-Crowe Pottery outside of Pittsboro. A distinguished artist, Bryan has many years as a ceramic artist and an instructor of functional pottery at Central Carolina Community College.
    Pleasantly surprised, visitors to the Cape Fear Studios for the 14th Annual Nellie Smith Commemorative Ceramic Competition will find many artists exhibiting who do not live in Fayetteville and familiar local talent.
    Local talent includes artist Greg Hathaway, an artist and ceramic instructor. Hathaway earned a third place award in the functional category. Tall and graceful, Hathaway’s lidded vessel represents his proficient and diligent dedication to his craft and variety.
    The second place award went to Edge Barnes and first place to Mark Gordan. Best in show was awarded to John Garland, an artist who has been exhibiting his multicolored glazed vessels. Floral details and multi-firings are the hallmarks of Garland’s ceramic ware.
    Non-functional is the second category in the competition. Sun Jester by Darlene Cote won a first place award. Second place went to Cote for her Resting Dragon. Both works were medium to small in scale and figurative. Third place went to Orbit III by Mark Gordan, an abstract circular form with repeating yellow ochre projections.
    Visitors to the 14th Annual Nellie Smith Commemorative Ceramic Competition will not be disappointed, a variety of interesting techniques in the medium of clay are being exhibited. As well, prices have a range from the affordable to the more expensive.
    From the wood firing of ceramic ware to the finely glazed platters and vessels, the 14th Annual Nellie Smith Commemorative Ceramic Competition is one of the best in many years. And it is open to the public and free. Anyone interested in visiting the galleries, needs direction or the hours of operation can call the Cape Fear Studios at (910) 433-2986 and the Fayetteville Arts Council at (910) 323-1776.
    In addition, if you are interested in joining an art guild or art organization, both agencies have information for you. 
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