By Jim Watson
Bring together over 60 top artists from across the United States, place them amidst the matchless beauty of the Smoky Mountains, add a little Appalachian entertainment and stir. The result is the prestigious Seventh Annual Gatlinburg Fine Arts Festival to be held Saturday and Sunday, May 14-15, 2011.
Arrive early and attend the reception to be held on the evening of Friday, May 13 – "A Night with the Artists Party." This meet-and-greet is the ideal opportunity for you to interact with the artists and talk about their work.
If you've never attended the festival in previous years, you can look forward to encountering an ideal showcase for established fine artists. This enlightening two-day, outdoor street fair introduces you to some of the area's most breathtaking artistry and natural scenery. Wander along River Road beside the Little Pigeon River on the grounds of the Ripley’s Aquarium. Here, at the Aquarium Plaza, you will see only peer-approved work as selected by a jury of 16. High- quality artists and artisans display basketry, ceramics, digital art, glasswork, jewelry, paintings, photography, sculpture, watercolors, woodwork and various other types of mixed media.
Stroll leisurely through the grounds while you listen to local musicians performing charming Appalachian traditional tunes. Dancers will also catch your eye with bright costumes bouncing with each step. Nearby, you can watch while over 300 artisans from the Craft Guild of the Southern Highlands demonstrate their finely honed skills.
Watch as they craft pottery right before your eyes. Look on as talented craftsmen demonstrate both simple and complex spinning, knitting and crocheting techniques.
And the little ones? They haven't been forgotten. The Gatlinburg Fine Arts Festival is truly a fun family event, offering a wide range of programs for children of all ages. Your child can have his or her face painted or contribute a special touch to a giant aquarium-themed mural. While you browse the grounds of the event, sign your child up for a free art class. Kids will learn how to make "art robots," fused glass tiles and even traditional corn dollies.
Getting hungry? No problem. The Gatlinburg Fine Arts Festival provides you with local foods designed to satisfy your appetite. Stop and sample cuisine from any of the food booths filled with all-American classics, including hamburgers, hot dogs and other popular fair cuisine. Or grab some barbecue and picnic by the banks of the Little Pigeon River.
Attending the seventh Annual Gatlinburg Fine Arts Festival is absolutely free, but donations are accepted. Please be generous, as the money goes to support two worthy local causes: the Gatlinburg Boys & Girls Club art program and the renowned visual arts center, Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts. Be generous, as well, in your shopping. The money you pay supports the ongoing work of talented American artists.
Where else but the Gatlinburg Fine Arts Festival can you support a good cause, admire superb local art and have a fun-filled family weekend? Come for the art, then book a cozy log cabin and stay for the beauty of the Smokies.