If you know anything about me, you might guess that the Harding Art Show is one of my most favorite things – quite frankly it is my Disney World. Who doesn’t love rooms full of amazing artists and stunning artwork? The Harding Art Show is in its 44th year (whaattt!). Forty-four years of bringing a community together, sharing the love for art. Growing up in Nashville, this spring event was always on our calendar. Now living in Richmond, VA – I make it a point to go back as often as I can.
I have been around this show for a long time and it really never gets old. It truly just gets better. The Harding Art Show definitely stands out among the other amazing shows in Nashville and beyond. The reputation of the Harding Art Show attracts stellar artists from across the country. Run by A LOT of volunteers from the Harding community, I love that each year, the Chairs of the event spend countless hours selecting and curating a show that is just right – representative of their love for art and the artists that are getting their attention.
behind the scenes
Planning for the Harding Art Show starts the minute the last show ends. The Chairs and all the volunteers (sitting on a number of different committees from communications to artist relations, etc.) are constantly thinking about who will be the featured artist for the following year. It has become a year-long commitment for those who step in to lead this renowned art experience. A year full of hard work and lots of fun.
While the attention is on the amazing artists in the lineup, the art focus goes well beyond "the professionals". This is an all school event. Each spring, the students flex their artistic muscle and learn new skills and techniques that they take with them well beyond their Harding years. Their art is showcased around the school and it can be hard to tell what has been created by the pros and what has been touched by the unbridled hands of even the youngest student. Heck, some of these young creatives even grow up and join the ranks of the Harding Art Show elite, as professional artists.
There is so much that goes on behind the scenes, making this art show one of the best!
This is not just something that happens in May, but unfolds over the course of months. There are endless conversations with the artists, new and seasoned, to make sure they have all the details needed to be prepared for the big event. Hours are spent working on the opening reception and the Friday night party that include delicious food and signature drinks. The Chairs work side-by-side with the leadership of the school to make sure that the back-end (think money) processes are in place – this is a fundraiser after all – a big successful fundraiser!! Plus, there are sponsors. Pretty amazing sponsors who are recognized throughout the event for their generous support of the Harding Art Show.
This year’s featured artist is pretty amazing. While I do not know Vesela Baker, I have been a fan of her work for a long time. As a matter of fact, I contacted her back in 2014 because I fell in love with a 44x48 bicycle painting, in a soft palette layered behind a resin finish. It was stunning and it made me think of my mom. Someone else snagged that painting but I still dream about it – so maybe this will be the year add a piece from Vesela to my collection.
Each year, I am excited to visit with artists who are now friends and uncover a new artist or body of work that I can bring back to Richmond. This year is no different - I am thrilled to see so many of my favorite artists on the 2019 Harding Art Show list. Not just favorite artists, but some of my favorite people Hannah Lane and Carey Haynes (both a part of the Nashville Artist Collective) have been long-time participants of the Harding Art Show and I can’t wait to see them in a few days!
And now in this crazy world of Instagram and getting to know people before you meet them in person – there are a slew of artists who I have talked to, bought their art, interviewed, and feel like we are friends … but have not met in person. Deeann Rieves, Gina Julian, Erin McIntosh, Liz Lane, Caroline Criss, Amanda Petro, Lacey Simmons, and Whitney St. Pierre (although I have technically met her for a brief moment a couple of summers ago) are just a few (ha!) of the artists that I look forward to visiting with at the Show.
the day of…
It is hard to describe the energy that builds throughout the opening day of the Harding Art Show. Each artist begins loading their work into their designated booth early Thursday morning. "Good mornings" and focused "hellos" can be heard as people pass back and forth from the loading zone to their spot. Smiling volunteers help bring in giant canvases and delicate sculptures – all getting a sneak peak of "the goods". There is a quiet hustle, as each artist works to get their space just right for the big opening night. Throughout the day, staff members trickle through, scoping out what they might add to their collection – eagerly waiting until 5:30pm when the show opens to the Harding community.
Sometime between loading and setting up – the artists take a moment to breathe and get a little gussied up for the big night. And pretty much as soon as the bell strikes 5:30pm, the gates open and there is a delightful rush of eager shoppers ready to take part in this year’s show. While some collectors make a beeline to their favorite artist in fear that the just right piece might slip away, many peruse the booths, talking with the artists and soaking up the beauty in the art.
It is without a doubt an amazing experience full of energy, beauty, community, and art.
See you there... at the checkout counter with full hands and an even fuller heart (and empty wallet).