ArtFields - progress

ArtFields Jr. artwork sat in The Stables at The Inn at the Crossroads, waiting to be displayed for the nine-day competition and festival.

LAKE CITY, S.C. -- ArtFields interim director Jamison Mady said the annual competition and festival includes about 400 pieces of artwork each year. But this year, the big change in numbers was the number of local businesses participating in the nine-day event.

Five new businesses in Lake City agreed to participate in ArtFields this spring by serving as art venues. Forty-eight locations were listed on the ArtFields website as art venues.

“There’s five new businesses, which I think is an important thing to note, because a big part of our goal is economic growth for downtown Lake City,” Mady said. “And to see five new businesses that are able to open from one year to the next proves that it is becoming a place where businesses can thrive.”

In April, ArtFields opened a new office on Sauls Street in Lake City. The office is at 122 Sauls St., adjoining the TRAX Visual Art Center. Mady said there is an entry between the two spaces.

“Part of the reason for that is Lake City’s grown so much, we now need a visitors center,” Mady said. “Visit Lake City has grown so much that they will have a visitors center on Main Street in our old office space. And we have moved our office to Sauls Street. That’s pretty cool. It’s definitely evidence of growth that we even need a place for people to stop in and get visitor information.”

Mady said she started working with ArtFields in 2014 as an intern. This year’s competition and festival was the sixth one she has worked with. She said the most evident change she has noticed has been the increase in year-round foot traffic in Lake City.

“We hear a lot about people who will make sure they stop in Lake City on their way to the beach, because they love Baker’s Sweets and they want to make sure they stop by to get something from there,” Mady said. “Or they just stop here for lunch, because they’ve been introduced to Lake City through ArtFields. But the people of Lake City make them want to come back throughout the year.”

The foot traffic has been a huge change since Mady first started, and she said during that time, not much was going on in the city outside the nine days of ArtFields.

There has been a transformation on Sauls Street in Lake City with the addition of many new businesses. Mady said more attention is also being paid to the businesses that have already existed on the street, because more is now going on around them. The amount of activity has also increased year-round on Main Street.

ArtFields was held April 26 through Saturday this year in Lake City. Events included a Dandelion Stroll, ColorMe ArtFields 5K Walk/Run, Dandelion Gala and live music, among other things.

More than $140,000 in prize money was awarded to winning artists this year. People from 12 Southeastern states are allowed to participate in the competition.

“ArtFields changes every year, because there’s different artwork every year, different people that are involved every year," Mady said. "But we’ve seen a big increase in the regional reputation that we have. It’s very clear that our name is getting out there beyond just South Carolina. And I think we’re getting closer and closer to more equal representation among the 12 states.”

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