Archived Arts & Entertainment

Art as spectator sport

Great art isn’t often associated with speed – the Mona Lisa wasn’t painted in an hour. Michelangelo took more than four years to perfect the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

But for the last 10 years, a special event has laid out a challenge to local artists: create a finished piece, ready for sale, all in under an hour. It’s not a simple task, but Quick Draw has proven a popular challenge for artists, whose pieces are auctioned off at the end of the hour to support the arts education in Haywood County.

Now in its 10th year, Quick Draw is a fast-paced event that provides a new environment for people to experience art and for artists to create it, while providing funds to support the next generation of artists.

For the artists themselves, the event supplies a challenge and a chance to interact with the public that the studio just can’t provide. And with space for only around 50 artists, Jo Ridge Kelley — artist, owner of Ridge Runner Naturals in Waynesville and Quick Draw committee member — said they’ve now had to make it an invitation-only event.

“You know, it’s become so popular that we have to say that it’s by invitation only,” said Ridge Kelley. “Now we work with the ones that have been faithful to Quick Draw all these years.”

One of those artists is Ann Vasilik. Vasilik is a Western North Carolina native whose watercolor paintings can be seen in galleries and public spaces around the region. For her, the challenge, the crowd and the buzz of artistic creation make the event a unique experience every year.

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“I enjoy the challenge and then just adding the time element on top of that just makes it even more exciting for me,” said Vasilik. “I certainly love doing watercolor, and this is an opportunity to show the medium at it’s best.”

Not all of the artists at Quick Draw can work against the clock, of course. Some art, by its very nature, takes a lot longer than an hour to come together. But around half will race the time limit to get their creations completed before auction time.

With a bustling and interested crowd milling around, working for an audience can be vastly different to creating solo.

While strategies for withstanding the pressure from both audience and deadline vary, Vasilik said her preferred method is blocking them out completely.

“What happens at Quick Draw is I totally block out the audience in front of me — the sounds and what they’re saying — because I’m so focused on the painting,” said Vasilik. “I have a little sign on my board that says ‘right brain at work, speech impaired.’”

For the spectators, even if the artists are too busy to chat with them about their work, just watching so much creativity burst forth in one place is an exciting experience.

Ridge Kelley said she hears art lovers singing the event’s praises all year long.

“I have people come into our gallery and say it’s their favorite event of the year, they wouldn’t miss it,” she said. “The creative energy is what I hear the most about. It’s just so amazing to see that many artists all in one place.”

While an event like this is fun for both participants and onlookers, the point, of course, goes beyond simple art appreciation.

Quick Draw raised $13,000 last year to fund art in local schools, as well as funding two scholarships for students studying the arts at a collegiate level.

This year, according to Ridge Kelley, they’re shooting for the $20,000 mark and trying to fund three scholarships.

But in addition to the funds generated by ticket sales and auction proceeds, Vasilik sees the event itself as an opportunity to turn more and more people on to arts education.

“I think the journey through the painting is the exciting part, seeing it come together,” said Vasilik. “I think you gain appreciation for what the artist puts into it, and a large part of it is entertainment, so you want to educate and entertain at the same time.”


WHEN: Saturday, April 30 • 4:30-9:30

WHERE: Laurel Ridge Country Club • 788 Eagle Nest Rd., Waynesville

HOW MUCH: $50 in advance


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