Lebaron Heathcoe is a retired boilermaker from Axis who creates articulated fish and an occasional alligator out of copper.
Stewart Rein is a photographer from Las Vegas who prints landscapes and city scenes on paper, canvas, metal, note cards and tempered glass cutting boards.
They are two of the hundreds of artists and craftspeople who will show their work in the 65th Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival and the Eastern Shore Art Center’s Spring Outdoor Art Show this weekend.
One of the best-known events of its kind in the Southeast, the two shows fill much of downtown Fairhope with paintings, pottery, jewelry and art pieces you never thought of until you saw them under a tent. It’s a destination event for tourists and an annual event for locals who come out to see what’s new.
This year’s format remains the same, but the festival’s organizational structure has changed. In the past, a committee of volunteers worked with the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce, but now the committee has formed a nonprofit federal 501(c)(3) foundation called the Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival Foundation.
The foundation will use a portion of the event’s proceeds for scholarships and donations to nonprofit groups “all promoting the arts in Fairhope,” said Laura English, the festival’s co-chairman.
“The show has been going on for 65 years and it has always been a volunteer-run organization, and we’ve always worked in partnership with the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce.”
The foundation has a new working arrangement with the chamber and city of Fairhope. “We just kind of did a little bit of an internal structure change and our volunteers are running the show. Part of that allows us to put things back into the show and into the community,” she said.
Neither the artists nor visitors should notice much of a change, English said.
All profits went to the chamber in the past, but the volunteers are from the Fairhope area while the chamber encompasses Daphne and Spanish Fort as well, English said. They will work together on how proceeds are allocated and distributed.
Two college scholarships will be given to Eastern Shore art students and two organizations, which she was not prepared to name, will receive a percentage of the profits.
“We’ve always had a great time working together and putting the show together. This also gives them the opportunity to take some ownership in it, too,” English said.
Nearly 350 artists and craftspeople from here to California will participate in both shows Friday through Sunday.
Heathcoe, 61, a native of Mobile County, was a career boilermaker who now creates bowls, wall hangings, sculptures and articulated fish and other creatures, all under the name Azalea City Copper.
“My mom wanted me to make a copper trellis for her. I built that one, and she wanted some other things made out of copper. That’s how I got interested in doing copper work,” Heathcoe said.
That was about 20 years ago. “It’s just the workability of it and things I could do with it. Friends of mine would ask me to make something for them, some kind of little articulation device or a wind chime or a mobile or something. I just kept doing that.”
Copper is expensive but available. Heathcoe said he’ll use recycled copper if possible, and if not he buys sheets locally from a roofing company.
He retired from Mitternight Boiler Works in Satsuma in 2013. Just before he retired, he took a copper art class in Grass Valley, California, with David Burns. That was his first formal art training.
Last year was his first year at the Fairhope festival, and he’s also done shows in Ocean Springs, Orange Beach, Birmingham and Gulf Breeze, Florida.
Heathcoe’s most unusual piece? “I did an articulated alligator and I sold it to a gentleman in Louisiana. He had a spot on the back porch where he was hanging it.”
The articulated fish “swim just fine” in high winds and wet weather, Heathcoe said.
Rein, on the other hand, has been all over Europe shooting landscapes and cityscapes which he prints on various surfaces under the name Stewart Rein Photography. He and his wife, Lill, didn’t actually travel to Fairhope straight from Las Vegas, but rather were visiting friends in South Carolina earlier in the week and planned to come to Alabama from there.
Rein said he likes to document historic places from Europe to downtown Mobile. Mobile’s historic districts offer great walking breaks after days of traveling, he said. “It’s a very beautiful city, so we do keep going back.”
“We got the information about Fairhope, and it looked like a very well organized show and a big show,” he said. The couple has some new equipment to try out and decided to start their spring show season earlier than usual.
The cutting boards and prints on metal have proved more popular than Rein anticipated. The cutting boards usually sell out. “It astounds us that it’s received such a great reception. It’s been amazing, to say the least,” he said.
Overall, 40 percent to 45 percent of this year’s participants will be new, English said. The festival has joined ZAPP (www.zapplication.org), a website that allows artists and fine-craftspeople to apply to multiple shows and put their work online for juries to review.
“Artists can go to one place and book their whole year,” she said. The move allowed more artists to learn about the Fairhope show, and overall applications were up “quite a bit.”
For children, the Coldwell Banker Reehl Properties is again sponsoring a creative area, located in front of Greer’s Market on Section Street, where they can create a piece of artwork. “We have different artists who will come and work with the children,” English said. There will be one overall piece of art on which all can work that will eventually be displayed somewhere in Fairhope.
Eastern Shore high schools and middle schools are given large boards with which to compete in an art competition. Festival artists judge the competition at their dinner on Friday night. Winners receive donations to their arts programs. This year’s theme is “what’s old is new,” English said.
One other change in this year’s festival is actually a return. The entertainment stage was moved last year to the Faulkner State Community College campus, but this year it’s returning to the traditional location in the Regions Bank parking lot.
The problem wasn’t with Faulkner; rather, the flow of people to the campus and back to the heart of the festival didn’t work, said Liz Thompson, director of tourism and special events for the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce. “Having it further away from the four corners of the festival just didn’t work out logistically,” she said.
The Outdoor Art Show has a new feature this year that is child friendly. Called Fairhopia, it seeks to teach children about sustainability through exhibits and take-home projects. Expected participants include Mobile Baykeeper, the Alabama Coastal Foundation, the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center, the Master Gardeners, Alabama 4-H, FEEF and the Pelican’s Nest.
Fairhopia will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday on Equality Street. Parents are asked to bring reusable bags to tote projects home.
If you’re going…
Just about all the information you need — times, directions, artists lists, food vendors, parking and shuttle buses — can be found at www.fairhopeartsandcraftsfestival.com or www.esartcenter.org/our-events/outdoor-art-show/.
General hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The festival, outdoor art show and Fairhopia are free. Parking is free at shopping centers along Greeno Road, where you can pick up a BRATS shuttle bus to the festival for $2 each way. Leashed, well-behaved pets are welcome, but keep them away from the art.
If you’re new to the festival, here are a few tips.
Do not leave your house or hotel room without comfortable walking shoes and sunscreen, a hat or both. Between the festival and the outdoor art show, you’re going to be doing a lot of walking, and more walking if you park somewhere other than the BRATS shuttle stops on Greeno Road.
Take your time. You cannot hope to see everything in an hour. The festival sprawls over several city blocks. Stroll. Take a food break. Make a day of it.
Check out all the food vendors before you make your lunch selection, lest you see something you wish you were eating instead. Also check out nonprofits such as churches or a certain high school football team that may be trying to raise money. Restaurants are open, too.
Likewise, unless you fall in love with a particular item on the spot, look at all the exhibitors first, then decide what you want to buy. Avoid the disappointment of finding a piece of pottery you like better on the other side of the festival.
If you have children along, visit the children’s activity area in front of Greer’s Market, and be on the lookout for child-friendly attractions such as the antique fire engine at the museum.
With exhibitors lining the streets, you can miss a block’s worth of art if you aren’t paying attention to where you are and where you’ve already been.
You don’t have to do it all in one day, unless you’ve waited until Sunday. It’s free. Go home, think some more about that painting you liked. Come back and get it the next day.
Pick up exhibitor business cards. You’ll remember who you purchased something from. Or, you may want to visit a website later to see what else is available or to order something you wish you had bought while you were there.
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