Jason Kuhn Staff writer
Old School Studio (TOSS) will wrap up a summer of art activities and summer camps with an art festival in downtown Morganton on Saturday.
The festival will be held from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM at the Wednesday Farmers Market at the intersection of North Green Street and Avery Avenue and will feature food, activities, impromptu games and art for sale. TOSS founder Catherine Irwin said she hoped scheduling the festival to coincide with the State of Origin craft drinks festival would make it part of a larger gathering downtown for the entire community on Saturday.
“State of Origin is right around the corner, so I’m hoping people will bounce back and forth between the Fonta and the courthouse lawn,” she said.
The centerpiece of the event will be an exhibit created by Artist in Residence Zak Foster, who works with TOSS campers over the summer.
People also read…
“The campers had so much fun this year,” Irvin said. “We’ve been exploring really complex topics through art… art is a powerful vehicle for self-discovery and I’m so proud of the work that was done this summer.”
During the four weeks of the summer camp, 90 local students explored career paths through art, creating more than 450 total projects, according to Erwin.
“Children are so remarkably absorbent. They will take an idea and internalize it and then the result is something really special and unique,” she said. “It was really interesting to see how they brought the concepts to life.”
Foster agreed, saying he was inspired by his experience working with children at TOSS.
“Kids just know what they like in a way that adults don’t,” Foster said. “There was no arguing, no hesitation, they just did it and jumped right in. That was really inspiring for me.”
For Foster, the TOSS camps were his first experience teaching kids to sew.
“I didn’t know how much they would actually be able to sew,” he said. “I enlisted the help of some friends who have worked with sewing kids in the past, and they gave me some good advice and some good projects.”
Foster is a quilter who makes memorial quilts for people who have lost loved ones.
“When someone passes away, the family will send me clothes and I’ll make a quilt out of them,” he said.
At the TOSS Art Party, Foster will show a piece called “Afterlife,” which is a series of quilts created to breathe new life into old discarded textiles.
“(They) capture his interpretation of the roundabout,” Irvin said. “This is the founding principle of material return, a social enterprise that gives new life to discarded tissues.”
Foster has said that one of his guiding principles in life and art is “to live as lightly on the earth as possible.”
“For me, that means not buying a lot of new things to create my work, trying to work with the resources that already exist around me to make these quilts,” he said. “In that sense, my values are very much aligned with those of TOSS.”
Foster said he visited Opportunity Threads in Morganton on his first day in residency. He was inspired by the process they use and the leftovers that are not used in the process.
“Their system is that people will send them T-shirts, they’ll cut out a giant square on the front, and what’s left is recycled,” he said. “I found these leftovers really interesting. They were like frames; they were like windows you could look through.
Foster turned these “frames” along with some recycled base fabrics into TOSS in her project.
“I tried to arrange them in such a way that it felt kind of alive,” he said. “Everything in the project has been rebuilt or repurposed.”
Irwin said having an artist in residence is a rare opportunity for a rural community, but she believes it can allow her organization to foster community conversations around important topics like, in this case, reuse and sustainability.
“An artist-in-residence is an amazing opportunity for an artist to develop a creative project based on a particular theme,” she said. “In a small rural community, we need forums for civil dialogue like this where we can all come together.”
In addition to the art exhibits, TOSS students will also be selling pieces they created over the summer.
Food will be provided by Timberwoods, Mom’s Egg Rolls and Super Ice Cream. Families at camp will receive four free meal tickets. Everyone is welcome to purchase food, and all other TOSS Summer Art Party activities are free.
Jason Koon is a staff writer and can be reached at [email protected]