More than 80 local artists and 40 area businesses will unite in downtown Lincolnton Friday evening for the 5th Annual First Federal Savings Bank Art Crawl.
From wooden sculptures to organic paintings, handmade jewelry and pottery, the city’s spring staple event will showcase a variety of pieces and personalities that comprise Lincoln County’s flourishing art community.
For 21-year-old Devin McCoy Murrell, a Lincolnton resident with an “alternative hobo chic” style, he said, skateboarding has been his primary artistic inspiration.
He uses them as the canvas for his abstract paintings and drawings — pieces he describes as “vintage street art.”
“It’s from my own personality,” he said, “and my emotions come out. I don’t really understand how I come up with the things I come up with. Whatever everyone else is doing, I want to do something different.”
As part of his first Art Crawl experience, he plans to set up shop and show his work at Court Street Grille on Court Square.
Murrell will particularly display nature themed paintings and one work featuring a number of natural elements including sections of a termites’ nest, beehive and tree bark.
He enjoys stitching together multiple materials to create “one big idea,” he said.
With a blend of Korean and African-American heritage in his blood and the juxtaposition of a Southern upbringing and “city slicker” interests, he noted, living outside the box has never been an issue for the Lincolnton High School graduate.
Creating art has been his passion since kindergarten, Murrell said, but it wasn’t until after high school he decided to fully pursue it, focusing his life goal on using art to touch and change lives.
He said he even has a long-term plan to help youth, especially those who stem from broken or fatherless homes.
His own upbringing included trials and challenges such as bullying and friendships with teens mixed up in dangerous drug habits and gang-related lifestyles.
He claims skateboarding saved his life from potential jail time and the negative choices he watched his friends pursue.
“I was too busy with my skateboard to even care about drugs,” Murrell said.
He is currently in the process of establishing his own clothing company called “Avant-Gnar.”
The name is a combination of the popular French phrase “avant-garde,” meaning “liberating and artistic,” he said,” and the commonly used skateboarding term “gnar.”
His vision for the company is to fabricate clothing pieces that are not only comfortable on the skin but also affordable “eye candy.”
The money Murrell receives from sales will be used to aid both the homeless population and skateboarders, he said.
Fellow artist and Lincolnton resident Don Olsen also has an eye for the abstract.
Since junior high school, wood has been the U.S. Army veteran’s chief artistic medium.
After fashioning a few projects for school wood shop classes, he instantly developed a bond with the trade.
After moving from New Jersey to Chicago in the 1970s, working initially as a draftsman completing electrical and mechanical drawings for Bell Telephone Laboratories, he and a co-worker formed a woodworking club.
It wasn’t long before additional members joined the group, and the craftsmen took part in shows and other instructional classes, traveling to Vermont, at one point, to learn tidbits from an expert in the field.
The club often made pieces, including wooden puzzles and various other therapeutic structures for mentally disabled children living in area group homes, Olsen said.
Following retirement, he started to dabble in the trade more, even having a workshop built behind his Bethel Church Road property for his tools and materials.
From concrete shapes and objects such as jewelry, bud vases and bowls to an array of more interpretational pieces, Olsen’s wooden creations fill his home in a variety of wood types including walnut, maple and bradford pear.
Perhaps closest to his heart is a piece he named “Rejoice,” a cut of wood from the part of the tree where the branches and trunk fade into each other.
The piece appears to have arms raised up to Heaven, giving the work a spiritual feeling.
Because Olsen harbors a mathematical mind, it’s only natural that his artistic hobby requires such skills.
One of the pieces he has on display in his living room is the “Hyparab II,” the blending of a hyperbola and a parabola.
From different angles, the viewer can see each shape, separate from the other.
The thin wooden slice, shaped like a potato chip and hanging from a thin, invisible string attached to a stand, is mysterious and complex in nature.
Olsen said he looks for the wood’s grain pattern when cutting a piece. The pattern is similar to that of a feather or spinal cord, he noted.
While he doesn’t calculate the exact time it takes to complete a sculpture, he ensures a woodcutting sits roughly 5 to 6 weeks before putting the finishing touches on it. The time period allows the wood to dry, he said.
Most of his wood stems from local resources — trees from friends and neighbors in Lincolnton.
While Olsen’s main display will be featured inside King’s Office Supply during the Art Crawl, two of his designs, along with work from local artists, will be on display at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church through April 14.
Olsen has been with the annual Lincolnton event since before it changed its name. Prior to becoming the official “Art Crawl” five years ago under the direction of the Arts Council of Lincoln County, two local ladies initiated a similar effort called the “Art Stroll,” he said.
His work was also featured in a Cultural Center exhibit last spring called “Woodturners of Lincoln County.”
Other pieces remain on display at galleries in Mooresville and Asheville, Olsen said.
Throughout his lifetime, he believes he’s created close to 1,000 wooden items, filling more than 30 pages of notebook paper with the names of each of his sculptures.
For Kathryn Berkowitz, handmade jewelry is her niche.
By using a combination of beads, pearls, textiles, threads and fibers, the Lincolnton artist creates abstract images and a variety of jewelry, including bridal items.
She also enjoys recycling items and utilizing repurposed materials such as shells, gemstones and bits of sea glass.
“Just about anything,” she said. “The possibilities are endless with what you can do (with materials).”
However, without inspiration, she has trouble kick starting her next design.
“If I have just a tiny piece, I can start,” she said.
Nearly a decade ago, she started her business “Blue Ridge Diva Designs” through ArtFire.com.
Refusing to mass produce products just to gain sales and clients, she hand stitches each piece, eager to see the excited eyes of customers who connect with a piece and want to purchase it.
“I don’t want anyone to buy anything from me unless they absolutely love it,” she said. “It has to speak to them.”
She refers to the skill of using beads to create colorful scenes as bead painting.
One her most cherished bead paintings is a Biblical interpretation from the book of Revelation.
Stitched along the top of a small wooden box, the scene includes Heaven’s River of Life and pearly gates.
Berkowitz said she began her love of crafting as a “child of the ‘60s.”
However, while raising and homeschooling her four children, she had little time to dabble in the trade.
In later years, after her children grew, she picked up the hobby again — a hobby, she said, most people consider tedious.
But for Berkowitz, the craft is relaxing.
“I just go into the zone,” she said.
By participating in the Art Crawl over the last four years, and other popular art shows such as the Cultural Center’s Paul C. Rhyne Art Competition, Berkowitz hopes to expose the local art community more to her specific trade — one that she feels certain art realms don’t truly understand.
“Beaders for a long time have been considered crafters,” she said, “but those who work in textiles and embroidery are more artisans than crafters. We take it to the next level.”
Oftentimes, she has no idea how a piece will look before creating it.
Her art display Friday will be set up inside Lizzie Lou’s in Lincolnton.
In addition to art displays, the Art Crawl will feature a number of food vendors, musical entertainment and a live contra dance exhibit.
The Art Crawl will be 5:30-9 p.m. The free event is a collaborative effort among the Arts Council of Lincoln County, the Downtown Development Association of Lincolnton, Inc., the Lincolnton-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, Lincoln Cultural Center and the Lincoln County Historical Association.
East Main Street will be closed during event hours.
For more information, visit lincolntonartcrawl.com or artslincolnnc.org.
To contact Don Olsen, call (704) 735-9335(704) 735-9335, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit donaldolsen.com.
To contact Kathryn Berkowitz or receive private beading instruction, call (828) 244-0434(828) 244-0434.