Art from the Heart
Now that Blowing Rock's Art in the Park is a quarter century old, it is not surprising that it has become something of a family tradition for some of its artists.
When Charlotte Grabman of Charleston, S.C., won the Award of Excellence's blue ribbon in the juried show last month, she became the second person in her family to win Art in the Park's highest award.
"My mother won that same award back in 1993 in the May Art in the Park show," Grabman said. "An article about her was published in the Blowing Rocket on May 21, 1993, and I was in the picture. I was 8 years old at the time."
The photo was taken by longtime Blowing Rocket editor Jerry Burns.
Both Charlotte Grabman and her mother, Marie-Helene L. Grabman, won the best-in-show awards for "scherenschnitte," or the traditional use of paper cutting to create images.
"I am a third generation paper cutter," Grabman said. "My great-grandmother taught my mother, and I learned from her. I haven't been doing shows for very long, only for the past two-and-a-half years."
According to Grabman, her return to Blowing Rock after all these years has spurred many pleasant memories of attending Art in the Park with her mother.
"This was the second year that I did the Art in the Park show, and I did it because it is so nostalgic for me to return to Blowing Rock," Grabman said. "I spent many, many summers on the playground in the park as my mother exhibited in the show. My mother told me that I've been going to Art in the Park since I was about 2. She would set up a playpen behind her booth, and I would stay there during the show.
"My first memories of Blowing Rock were when my parents would put me into their full-sized van - there was hardly any room with my mother's display - at five in the morning to drive up to Blowing Rock from Charlotte. We would make the trip very early, so that my mom would have enough time to get her booth set up for the show. My mother recently remarked that she thinks that we both look awfully tired in our newspaper pictures."
Grabman remembered that on one trip to Blowing Rock when she was 4 or 5, her dad put her into the van barefoot and didn't notice until they got to Blowing Rock that his daughter had no shoes on her feet.
"So, when the stores opened along Main Street, my father took me, and we had to buy a pair of shoes," Grabman said. "This is how I got my first pair of black and white saddle shoes."
As Grabman got older, she discovered the joys of the Blowing Rock Community Library, one block over from Blowing Rock Memorial Park, where the Chamber of Commerce hosted Art in the Park in those days.
"I remember spending many hours in the little library beside the park during the Art in the Park shows," she said. "I wonder if they still have the bear rug in the children's reading area. I read many books on that rug."
According to library volunteers, the bear rug remains a favorite reading place for young visitors.
Another place in Blowing Rock that brings back fond memories of Grabman's childhood is Kilwin's ice cream parlor on Main Street.
"In Blowing Rock, my mother had no trouble getting me to eat my entire packed lunch, for one specific reason: Ice cream and fudge. I loved the ice cream shop! When I came back for the first time last year, my husband and I had ice cream for dinner the first night we were there."
While making artistic pictures with paper and scissors is one of her passions, Grabman works full-time as a sixth-grade teacher in Charleston. Her job prevents her from participating in too many art shows because it takes so long to build up stock for an art sale.
"It really has been a blessing to be able to come back to Blowing Rock these past two years," Grabman said. "When I first applied for Art in the Park, I really didn't think that my artwork was anything that would be to Blowing Rock's standards. I was so excited when I got my acceptance letter in the mail.
"I half-wondered, because of my last name, if the judges thought that I was my mother coming back to do the show."
In addition to Art in the Park, Grabman exhibits and sells her work at one other art show in Beaufort, S.C., using the same booth her mother used years ago.
"When I won the award this year, I just could not believe it," Grabman said. "The other artists' work is just superb at Blowing Rock, so I could not believe that the judges ranked my work among it. I am just so honored; it really is a dream come true.
"Winning an award at Blowing Rock makes me feel that the art form that I share with my mother has come full circle. My mother is an accomplished artist and started much of her career in Blowing Rock. I hope to one day be as good as she is, and to be as accomplished as she is.
"I feel that winning this award helps me to realize that I am on my way, as well. I also hope that, in the future, when I have children, they will be able to share in those same memories that I have of Blowing Rock."