“Intimacy Despite Distance”

Art on Main does as much as it can with a virtual platform

The downtown heritage event will include two days of curated online events, and a combination of returning artists and fresh faces, like jewelry artist Becky Smith.

Becky Smith forges fairytales. A Canton-based jewelry artist, Smith writes fables in metal, not ink. In doing so, her necklaces tell whimsical, enchanting narratives — bears chase balloons, rabbits munch clover, crows welcome sundown. 

“I take forms I see in nature,” says Smith, who grew up on a sorghum farm in Haywood County. “But I add magic.”

At 28, Smith is the youngest artist featured in September’s Art on Main event. Hosted in downtown Hendersonville for the past 60 years, the fine art and craft show will now be moving to a virtual platform “in an abundance of caution,” reads the festival’s webpage.

Jewelry by Becky Smith.

 “It came down to several questions: Can we handle crowd sizes? Is it ethical to host this event in person? Is it safe for our community and our artists?” says Hannah Duncan, executive director of the Arts Council of Henderson County. 

Duncan joined the Arts Council in January, eager to assume a face-to-face position after working remotely for a marketing company. Though COVID-19 has her behind closed doors once again, her experience in the digital realm has allowed the organization to quickly swivel from street to stream — livestream, that is.  

Duncan says the goal is intimacy despite distance. As such, this year’s juried lineup has been reduced from more than 100 artists — typically local, regional, and out-of-state exhibitors, and including members of the prestigious Southern Highland Craft Guild — to fewer than 50. In doing so, the Arts Council can broadcast artist interviews followed by virtual showrooms: live drop-in sessions where festivalgoers talk with vendors. 

“The personal stories are one of the biggest selling points,” says Duncan. “It’s about their craft and how they came to it.”

Hoping to recreate a festival ambiance, Smith will set up her booth at home and will reveal her process over video chat. “My training tells me to sketch my designs first,” says Smith. In 2012, she enrolled in the Professional Crafts Program at Haywood Community College, where her father is a blacksmith instructor. “But metal is forgiving, and I like that each necklace is one of a kind. Each piece tells a new story.”

The 61st Art on Main festival will launch on Saturday, Sept. 26, at 11am with livestreamed artist interviews, demos, and musical performances. The kickoff is followed by virtual showrooms from 1-4pm and additional artist interviews and performances from 4-6pm. On Sunday, September 27, guests can enjoy an awards ceremony, additional interviews and demos, and performances from 11am-1pm; virtual showrooms from 1-4pm; and the closing ceremony from 4-6pm. Find Art On Main on Facebook or at artonmainnc.com. 

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