St. James Artisans create more than works of art
Ten years ago, a small group of artists from St. James set up a boutique to sell fine arts and crafts they created. And ever since, they have been stepping up for the arts.
From this humble beginning, The St. James Artisans has grown into a group of ninety-three juried artists. More importantly, the Artisans exist to enhance art appreciation through a nonprofit, Stepping Up For Arts (SUFA) formed in 2009.
The new Artisans Gallery on Howe in Southport, which held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 17, showcases pottery; jewelry; wood and glass objects; baskets; linens; floral design; photography; shell and sea glass art; fabric art; cards; originals and prints.
Concurrent with the new gallery opening, artists from Southport and surrounding areas were invited to join the St. James artists to enhance the variety of art in the new gallery that relocated from within St. James.
It’s not easy to be a member of this group of artists who are juried against standards. DONNA DAVIS, who does publicity for the artists, says, “Seventy percent of an individual’s artwork must be what the artist has done, while the rest can be materials.”
These artistic standards, as well as overall leadership, come from the all-female steering committee led by potter and painter DONNA KANICH, president. She is supported by nine other positions.
The variety of artistic and professional talent on the steering committee is extraordinary: BRENDA HARVEY, secretary and painter; CATHRYN ELDRIDGE, treasurer and jeweler; CONNIE MURPHY, treasurer and pinecone flower art; CAROL SZOT, membership and basket art; MARIAN MACKERER, retail and painting/pallet wood art; KRIS HOLT, retail and fabric art; DONNA DAVIS, communications/publicity and shell art; JUDITH DRAGOS, artistic integrity and basket art; CAROL KIDD, SUFA and painting.
Davis, retired special education teacher, says, “We are more than artists. Not only do we provide opportunity for others to see and purchase original artwork, we provide a creative outlet, which promotes healthy aging while fostering the arts within our local schools. We are stepping up for the arts.”
And these are pretty big steps.
In addition to working gratis in the gallery seven hours per month, all artisans donate a percentage of sales to SUFA. Profits above gallery expenses are also donated to SUFA. This nonprofit leg of the Artisans supports Brunswick County public school fine art teachers and funds scholarships for Brunswick County High School seniors.
Students don’t necessarily need to major in the arts. They can participate in any artistic activity to enrich their curriculum. This year SUFA presented five scholarships.
Davis, who has been involved with the Artisans for four years and managed publicity for the past two, presented the 2019 awards at West Brunswick High School to three female students.
“I was so honored to present three of the scholarships to West Brunswick High School graduating seniors,” Davis says. “These hard-working young ladies balanced academic responsibilities and artistic interests to achieve their goal of attending the college of their choice.”
Kanich, who has a pottery studio in her home, adds, “As president for the past three years, I have met many people through my association with this talented group. We are involved in SUFA because we believe that the arts are an important part of learning.”
Up until the coronavirus pandemic, the artisans also provided educational opportunities to the community with a portion of the class fees donated to SUFA.
The St. James Artisans, majority female, range in age into their eighties. Many helped renovate the building on Howe Street, painting and patching, laying carpet and tile, and making display boxes in addition to the new gallery sign hanging proudly out front of the lime-green trimmed door. It’s easy to tell that artists live there.
“Come visit. Every item is handmade by a local resident,” Szot says. “We are excited to be part of a unique and lively city as Southport. There is absolutely something for everyone.”