Interview with Kyle C. Coleman of ArtFields: Celebrating the Artistic Landscape of the Southeast
"I think the fact that ArtFields has no parameters concerning, media, technique, and content, makes our event an annual mirror for Artists across the Southeast."
ArtFields, a thriving cornerstone of the Southeast's art scene, has significantly influenced the creative landscape of South Carolina since its inception in 2013. The brainchild of a small-town community, it boasts a nine-day celebration and competition honoring artists from the Southeast region. The event is a testament to the transformative power of art, helping to revive the prosperity of one of South Carolina's once-flourishing agricultural communities by turning the entire town into an art gallery.
ArtFields is not just a contest; it is a showcase of the Southeast's artistic talent, embodied in a plethora of mediums and displayed in various locally-owned venues. From renovated warehouses and professional art spaces, such as the Jones-Carter Gallery and the TRAX Visual Art Center, to public places like libraries, restaurants, and boutique shops, art is integrated into every nook and cranny of the town. The Ronald E. McNair Life History Center and the local history museum also participate, solidifying the event's deeply-rooted connection to the community's heritage.
A critical role in ArtFields' success is the Fine Arts Manager. This role, held by Kyle C. Coleman since 2019, facilitates and oversees every aspect of the competition. The Fine Arts Manager ensures a seamless flow from managing artwork submissions to coordinating with a team of professional jurors. Moreover, Coleman also acts as a liaison between the participating artists and the hosting venues, fostering an environment of collaborative camaraderie.
ArtFields' prize structure is another crucial element of its success. The competition offers over $110,000 in cash prizes, including a grand prize of $50,000 and a second-place award of $25,000. Additionally, two People's Choice Awards are bestowed, chosen by votes from the attending public, ensuring participation from the community.
Now, as ArtFields heads into its 12th anniversary in 2024, it continues to grow, fostering artistic talent. While simultaneously transforming the small town of Lake City, SC into a vibrant cultural hub, future plans include collaboration with other organizations and the expansion of ArtFields Jr. ArtFields is poised to uphold its unique charm while embracing the evolving Southeastern art world.
ArtFields is a testament to the transformative power of art and a celebration of the beauty that arises when a community comes together to honor and support its creative talents. It is an event that not only cultivates artistic talent, but also invites everyone to engage in a dialogue about the soul of the Southeast by infusing art into everyday spaces.
Darcy with Isabella K. Losskarn's "Did you make that all by Yourself," Trax Visual Art Center, Lake City. 2023 Competition Year.
Q & A with Kyle C. Coleman
Dawn Hunter: In your role as the Fine Arts Manager for ArtFields since 2019, what major changes or innovations have you observed or implemented in the event that significantly contributed to its success? Can you share some of your most memorable experiences in this role?
Kyle C. Coleman: Even before I came on board, there has been a deliberate focus on ArtFields as a celebration and competition for visual artists. Those nine days do function as an arts festival, as well, but there is focused intentionality in consistently improving the art experiences for our participants, venues, visitors, and community. There have been several instances where we’ve seen the transition from doubters to believers. We do our best to describe who we are and what we do. Often, Artists who are not aware of us have some difficulty in truly understanding ArtFields. To see those Artists in particular who approach the event with trepidation to participate for the first time; to see the light come on when they “get it” and become staunch supporters is very satisfying. (continued below)
ArtFields 2022 Grand Prize "of America: September 4, 1957"
Artist: Noah Scalin | LOCATION: Richmond, VA
Artist: Anne Boudreau | LOCATION: LaFayette, LA
Title: Climbing the Walls. 2022 Competition Year.
Dawn Hunter: ArtFields is a unique concept that turns an entire town into an art gallery, which appears to have a deeply rooted connection to the community's heritage. How does the art displayed at ArtFields reflect the current sentiment and diversity of the Southeast region?
Kyle C. Coleman: I think the fact that ArtFields has no parameters concerning, media, technique, and content, makes our event an annual mirror for Artists across the Southeast. That inclusivity naturally lends itself to prompting diverse viewpoints. We are able to see the experiences of our participating Artists through the lens of their artwork.
Artist: Steven L. Anderson | LOCATION: Atlanta, GA
Title: Half 483 Years. 2023 Competition Year.
Dawn Hunter: ArtFields invites everyone to engage in a dialogue about the 'soul of the Southeast'. How have you seen this dialogue evolve over your tenure, and what issues or themes have become more prominent in recent years?
Kyle C. Coleman: To continue the previous answer, I think those dialogues adapt and change depending on the year. For example, in 2021, there were many works that dealt with COVID and its effects on our lives. There has been a continual number of entries that discuss social justice issues and politics. There are always works that reflect the lives, motivations, and dreams of the Artists who craft them. The thought of this work as a mirror is probably the best description.
Dawn Hunter: The competition offers significant cash prizes, which must be a significant lure for artists. However, aside from the prize money, how do you think ArtFields benefits the artists of the Southeast region? Can you share stories of artists whose careers were notably impacted by the event?
Kyle C. Coleman: Our prizes are intended to be life and career-changing for our Artists. Beyond that, ArtFields has become a living, ever-growing community of Art and Artists. The relationships built here, among practitioners from across the region have proven to be lasting. That we have a sizeable group of Artists and patrons that visit us every year, whether they are competing or not, shows the consistent impact of ArtFields. It is a big deal to be selected to participate in ArtFields, and that doesn’t come from us, but from the sentiments of the Southeastern Artist community.
ArtFields 2022 Merit Award "Join Me - A Prelude"
Artist: Noah Saunders | LOCATION: Athens, GA
Dawn Hunter: Can you tell us more about the future plans for ArtFields, particularly the expansion of ArtFields Jr. and the collaboration with other organizations? How will these new initiatives help continue the growth and reach of ArtFields?
Kyle C. Coleman: We are striving to be better and better at facilitating meaningful art experiences for participants and visitors, alike. The recently launched "tours" of ArtFields Jr. artwork, which is a traveling exhibition featuring winners and participants from each region. It will expand the exposure and opportunities for those young artists. Likewise, our Southeastern Partnerships serve to conceptually blow those dandelion seeds far beyond Lake City and provide similar opportunities to our participating Artists.
Artist: Diana Farán| LOCATION: Greenville, SC
Title: The Last Kiss. 2023 Competition Year.
Exhibition Installation, The R.O.B., curated by Michaela Pilar Brown, 2023 Competition Year.