In Kannapolis, a kaleidoscope of culture takes to the street

  • Posted: Sunday, April 28, 2013 12:24 a.m.
John Hairston paints for the crowd during the Kaleidoscope Cultural Arts Festival in downtown Kannaplois on Saturday. (Photo by Scott Myers, Salisbury Post)
John Hairston paints for the crowd during the Kaleidoscope Cultural Arts Festival in downtown Kannaplois on Saturday. (Photo by Scott Myers, Salisbury Post)

KANNAPOLIS — Belly dancers swiveled their hips and balanced swords on their arms.

Painters created cloudscapes and fantasy figures.

Kids performed a song from their school play.

And vendors sold everything from handcrafted wooden toys to custom-crafted jewelry.

All of this within the space of three city blocks.

That was the scene Saturday at the inaugural Kaleidoscope Cultural Arts Festival, held on the sidewalks of downtown Kannapolis.

The event was presented by Modern Film Fest, sponsored by the city of Kannapolis and the N.C. Research Campus.

Liz Gray, a Cabarrus resident and visual artist, was one of the organizers.

She said the event was “just a place for artists in our area to get together,” with a chance for the community to experience culture.

Aside from the belly dancers and musicians of various kinds, there were costumed characters from the Carolina Renaissance Festival, a juggler and other performers.

“The most interesting thing for me is just seeing the diverse culture in our area,” Gray said. Many of the artists and vendors live or work in Cabarrus County, she said.

All ages were represented. Students from Weddington Hills Elementary School, in Concord, performed music from their production of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

And visual art from A.L. Brown High School students was also on display.

Meghan Shapley, a junior at A.L. Brown High, said she thought the event was a great idea to bring the community together.

Shapley is an Honors Art student in Brenda Hardin’s class. At the festival, she gave a live demonstration of acrylic painting.

“I hear people say art is a useless profession, but it isn’t. If you really want to make it work it will work,” Shapley said.

Fellow student Anthony Lotito, a sophomore at A.L. Brown, said art can bring people together – “artists, dancers, whoever. Not just artistically, but humanly.”

“I don’t know how to explain it,” Lotito said, smiling, as passers-by stopped to admire paintings and drawings.

Brent Offenberger, owner of Brently’s Woodcrafts, started making intricate wooden toys about 25 years ago, when the wooden jewelry box he was trying to make turned out to look like a box truck.

Today, he’s made wooden snow plows, bulldozers, trucks, even a bulldozer with real moving parts.

Some pieces take as much as 100 hours, sometimes more, to craft, Offenburger said.

For him, the festival was a chance to sell his wares, and also to get feedback from the public.

Charles Crawford, independent graphic artist originally from Lancaster, S.C., now lives and works in Cabarrus County.

“I’m more of a street artist, I like bright colors,” Crawford said, standing by a display of his works.

Being at the event had brought “a wonderful response, a lot of positive vibes,” Crawford said.

“Art is a big part of life, you know,” Crawford said. “There are so many different styles. Each individual person adds something to the community.”

Crawford himself is also a musician, and had CDs as well as art prints on display at his table.

As for the event, Crawford said, “the more it goes, the streets are going to be full.”

Next to him, John Hairston painted a fantasy scene inspired by sci-fi and comic book artist Frank Frazetta.

He described it as “a fantasy snowscape,” even as he added paint to change and morph the look of his character.

The art he loves, Hairston said, is “art that makes my inner fifth-grader happy.”

And live painting, as at Saturday’s festival, is “something that I’ve always done,” he said.

Hairston said Gray was the reason he came to the event, and that he had also been able to meet other artists whom he’d heard about but not worked with in person.

For Justin Christenbery, a Cornelius-based painter, what was happening in Kannapolis is similar to what’s happening in his town.

Christenbery said he works with Bella Love, an organization “working to bridge the gap between local artists, businesses, musicians and the town of Cornelius.”

“It seems like arts are on the rise,” Christenbery said.

And events like Kaleidoscope are a chance to talk about art and show examples of what artists can do, “especially at a time when the arts are bring cut in schools,” he said.

“My belief is that we are creative beings more than anything else,” he said. “I love encouraging people.”

Michael Knox, of Modern Film Fest, said there will be a Kaleidoscope Cultural Arts Festival in downtown Kannapolis on the last Saturday of each month, through August.

The next festival will be held on Saturday, May 25.

A finale show is also planned for the first weekend of October, to coincide with Modern Film Fest.

Knox said he enjoys the culture of downtown Asheville’s arts community and wanted to bring something similar to Kannapolis.

With 45 vendors and artists, and a steady crowd downtown Saturday despite gray skies, “I’m pretty happy with what we’ve got going on,” Knox said.

Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.

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