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Come Sunday, more than 130 artists will descend on a small residential neighborhood for the 20th year in a row.
The annual Boylan Heights ArtWalk returns for its biggest year yet, packing local art onto sidewalks and front porches throughout the historic district southwest of downtown.
“In a lot of shows, we’re stuck in a square or a public area – being on people’s porches is really nice,” said Lucas House, a metalsmith who lives and works in Boylan Heights. “It’s kind of just a big party.”
Want to go?
What: Boylan Heights ArtWalk
When: Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Boylan Avenue and side streets between the Boylan Bridge and Cabarrus Street
Parking tips: Try the Project Enlightenment lot off Florence Street or look for streetside spaces and plan to walk. Rickshaw service will be running.
For more information: artwalk.boylanheights.org
The event has grown dramatically in the past two decades. The neighborhood’s proximity to downtown and historic but affordable homes has long been a draw for artists. In the early 1990s, “a couple of artists thought it would be great to showcase art on their porches, taking advantage of the natural welcoming nature,” said Lyman Collins, a Boylan Heights resident who helps organize the event.
Initially, the event featured mostly artists who lived or worked in the neighborhood. It long ago expanded to artists from around the region, and this year many of those didn’t make the cut.
“We didn’t have space for everyone,” Collins said. “This year we had to turn away the most ever.”
It’s a juried event, with neighborhood artists and residents deciding who gets to participate. “That’s to make sure it is a quality show,” Collins said. “We change up the jury every year – it allows for new artists.”
Despite its size, the ArtWalk remains an all-volunteer event, with a committee of about 15 neighbors planning the festivities for six months. Boylan Heights residents even put together the refreshments, staffing a bake sale and grilling hamburgers and hot dogs. “It’s a real grassroots effort,” Collins said.
As the ArtWalk has grown, so has the number of artists who call Boylan Heights home. Collins said the number has doubled in the eight years he has lived there.
House, the metalsmith, has his workshop and forge in Antfarm Studios on Kinsey Street. It’s a co-op of artists who renovated the former Carolina Washboard facility. Working near so many fellow artists “makes it easy to get help and have a mental push when you need it,” House said.
The ArtWalk is one of a few occasions when Antfarm Studios is open to visitors. Several artisans will be set up out front offering hot cider, House said, and he’ll have handcrafted bottle openers, metal flowers and other small gift items for sale.
“Being close to Christmas, people are thinking about gifts and that kind of stuff,” he said.