Seeding Artistry: Art in the Arboretum combines creativity and nature

Sep 30 • Art, ARTSY SMARTSY, FEATURE BOTTOM, VisualNo Comments on Seeding Artistry: Art in the Arboretum combines creativity and nature

Art and nature have complemented each other since man first took chisel to stone. From the pastoral art movement to works that utilize the elements for effect, they’re intricately intertwined. It’s no surprise that one of New Hanover County Arboretum’s biggest fundraisers of the year, Art in the Arboretum, marries the two.


WEATHERING THE WINDS: Kevin Duval will be showcasing his impressive windmills at this year’s Art in the Arboretum. Courtesy photo.

This year the celebration, which will be held from October 3 through the 5, extends to three days, and also will usher in the arboretum’s 25th anniversary. “Any time you survive 25 years, it’s something to celebrate,” Al Hight, county extension director, says. “It’s a good time to pause and take stock of where we are and where we’re headed. We have invested lots of effort, time and money in the past five years, improving the garden to make it a better resource for the citizens of the region. We also finally have the infrastructure in place to take us back to one of our original missions of [trial running] plants from all over the world and getting the outstanding ones into the hands of gardeners.”

The arboretum will commemorate its 25 years of service with a special party on Saturday at 4 p.m. The event will host government dignitaries, past directors and volunteers; however, the highlight of the soirée will be the unveiling of the time capsule. The arboretum asked several school groups around the county to put things into the capsule. The items—which include technology specific to 2014, letters and pictures—will be on display for folks to sift through during the party. The capsule will be re-opened in 2039.

Fundraising proves the great focus of the weekend. The funds procured from last year were utilized for general garden maintenance—specifically the replacement of the sidewalk that connects the Ross Greenhouse and the wedding lawn. As well, the arboretum erected a new retaining wall.

“The arboretum is a great community resource,” Sue Watkins, chair of Art in the Arboretum, expresses. “[It’s] constantly changing and improving. Homeowners can enjoy and learn about plants that will grow in this area. But it  is more than the gardens:  It is home to New Hanover County Cooperative Extension,  the Ability Garden, a horticulture therapy program, a 4-H youth program, and one of the best the Master Gardener Associations in the state—who operate an on-site plant clinic. And it’s free and open seven days a week.”

As always, art will lead the weekend’s events. Nearly $25,000 worth of art was sold last year from 92 participating artists. This year will extend to feature over 125 artists. Aside from the 2D and 3D artists, there will be hand-painted silk banners, specially prepared by locals, to ornament the tribute garden and entrance to the arboretum. 

Among this year’s expansive set of artisans will be metal-worker Kevin Duval. He currently resides in Wilmington. His visual prowess utilizes salvaged, scavenged and reclaimed materials to craft sculptures, wall decorations and kinetic art. Duval spends countless hours searching the area for copper, steel, stainless steel, aluminum lead, and other elements.

“I draw inspiration primarily from nature and my materials,” Duval details. “I sit around and pick at my brain for a while, before I finally decide to incorporate [my materials] into some of my compositions.”

Last year his creations landed him the Arts in Arboretum’s People’s Choice awards. “It was quite an honor,” Duval admonishes. “There are some great artists there, and to be singled out among all those talented people is certainly an honor.”

This year Duval will be bringing three show-stopping, large kinetic pieces, along with some other sculptures and creations, to display. His windmills boast bright, vibrant colors, which beautifully reflect light as the wind gracefully propels it. His works require a lot of preparation, as he grinds them to get the semantic texture. Foregoing the planning and sketching, the seasoned artist lets the pieces take their own direction. After the windmills are built, he coats them with transparent ink so the grind can be seen from both directions. 

Likewise, Janet B. Sessoms will feature her oil paintings in this year’s show. She will be displaying three original works.  “Spring Color,” captures the spring hues of the blossoming azaleas on the corner of Orange and Second streets. “Transitions” depicts the rural beauty of a Bladen County barn, and “Sir Thomas,” illustrates a turkey flashing his feathers for the lady turkeys. She also will have a bin of paintings featuring  boats, landscapes and figures.

“I’m attracted to how light hits an object, and then how the shapes create a composition that interest me,” Sessoms describes. “I’m constantly studying and observing to try to make each painting better than the one before. I started painting full time about two years ago, and I feel the need to develop the talent I believe has been granted to me by God.”

Also on the agenda for the weekend will be tunes by local artists. Among the performers will be jazz outfit Port City Trio, who will perform at the Membership Party, hosted by the Friends of the Arboretum, on Saturday night. The festivities will include food, drinks, a raffle, and a silent auction. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. 

Other performers include Penny Pierce and Joyce Shortall-Stevenson, Galen Hunsucker and Sean Crane, Upstarts and Rogues, and Christina Brier. They will be at the Arboretum event only. 

As well, the annual Ability Garden Art Show and Sale will feature works by visionaries with disabilities. Members from the Children’s Museum of Wilmington also will be on hand, so kids can create their own arts and crafts. 


Art in the Arboretum

New Hanover County Arboretum
6206 Oleander Drive
Fri. – Sun., Oct. 3 through 5
Admission: $5

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