Trio of Sumter artists makes a splash at ArtFields in Lake City


It's as if you nestled your way into Crayola's 64-box of crayons. Everywhere you look, vibrant hues appear to reach out at you, drawing you in to the sights, sounds and stylistic expression of creatives across the Southeast.

Welcome to ArtFields.

As the South's most engaging art competition and festival, ArtFields began in 2013 to honor artists with a week's worth of celebration and competition in the heart of Lake City. The annual festival will take place April 26-May 4, featuring about 470 adult artworks and nearly 200 student artworks that will be showcased in more than 50 venues, including its gallery and stores throughout the small Southern town. More than $100,000 in prizes will be awarded, $25,000 of which is determined by visitor's vote.

The town nearly doubles in size with visitors as they travel from all over to experience the living art galleries innovated from spaces you frequent. You can enjoy one-of-a-kind artwork as you grab a haircut, browse for the newest spring fashion finds or pop into an aesthetic coffee shop for your midday pick-me-up.

But when you do, keep an eye out for unique pieces produced by your fellow Sumterites, as three of them will feature their artwork in this year's festival.

Trisha King, a California native-turned-Sumterite, and Julie Watts, a Chapin girl and Sumter artist, will both be featured in this year's annual festival.

King submitted her profound artwork, "F Cancer," to ArtFields for the first time. Inspired by the tenacity of her friend and sister-in-law in their fight with breast cancer, she began collecting green circuit boards from long-forgotten gadgets to configure in the shape of a woman's bust. She continued to work on the sculpture for six years, even during her breast cancer diagnosis. Friends of King, members of Sumter Artists Guild, knew the appreciation that would come from showcasing on a platform like ArtFields. So, after much convincing, King agreed. Shocked at receiving her acceptance, she was equally as supportive of her fellow Guild member Watts.

Watts fell in love with painting in high school and sought to make a career out of it. Fast forward a few decades, and she now splits her time between being a devoted social worker and mental health counselor as well as an artist. She would take tips from Guild members on how to tweak her work to make it better. For more than a year, Watts painted 24 6x6 canvases of vintage items, inspired by memories from her childhood, and lovingly named the collection "Artifacts." Like King, the Guild friends encouraged Watts to pursue the platform her artwork deserved. After two years of art submissions that were met with "No"s, Watts finally received the long-awaited "Yes" from ArtFields.

Both artists' work will be displayed in stores in downtown Lake City, and they have made plans to be among the hustle and bustle of the festival to witness it being admired by others. They will also do admiring of their own, as Zanadia Solomon from Lakewood High School will have her artwork as part of the ArtFields Jr. Art Competition. The youth competition is open to South Carolina students first through 12th grade, categorized by primary, elementary, middle and secondary. Winners receive between $75 and $500 along with three merit awards and one student choice award.

ArtFields is thought to be "living, breathing proof of the power of art. A reminder that its beauty and soul and energy live within each of us -- even through the harshest season," according to the ArtFields website. And for these artists to prevail, make strides and reap the benefits of their hard work, pinching oneself a few times does little to verify the reality; it feels like a dream, and it's finally come true.

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