INDIAN LAND -- Nestled between Charlotte and Lancaster, and just a few miles north of Rock Hill, Panhandle residents are uniquely situated with cultural opportunities in nearly every direction.
Lately, arts promoters in Lancaster have become more interested in urging local residents to stay in Lancaster County to experience the cultural opportunities it has to offer. The downtown area of the City of Lancaster, about 20 miles south of Indian Land, is becoming the cultural center of the county. There are five art galleries and studios in downtown Lancaster, including Bob Doster's Backstreet Studio, owned by Doster, a metal artist from Van Wyck, and Chastain's Studio Loft, owned by Christina Chastain, the gallery director for the Lancaster County Arts Council.
Gallery crawls are held monthly and offer visitors a chance to see inside the artists' studios and to meet artists from around the county. Art classes are offered for children and adults at Chastain's, which she says is a big part of encouraging the arts in the county.
In September, Chastain will open a studio on Main Street in the city of Lancaster. Twenty artists' studios will be available for rent and a wide range of classes will be taught, from oil painting and pottery, to dance. An apartment will be located on the top floor of the new studio where artists-in-residence will be invited to stay and spend time in Lancaster teaching art classes.
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"We hope Lancaster will be a destination for the arts," Chastain says.
It's the casual atmosphere that Howell hopes will bring residents from Indian Land and Van Wyck into the City of Lancaster for arts events. Unlike arts events in more urban areas, crowds in Lancaster are typically small and visitors can easily spend time enjoying the artwork in Lancaster's galleries.
Van Wyck artist Robin Zavada compares the arts scene in Lancaster with some of the major cultural areas of Charlotte.
"I think that Lancaster is going to be the next NoDa," she says, referring to North Davidson Street, Charlotte's historic arts district, where galleries and music venues abound.
Zavada considered displaying her paintings in galleries in Charlotte but choose instead to place her work in Doster's studio. Lancaster galleries have a more relaxed atmosphere than galleries in larger cities such as Charlotte, she says.
"They [Lancaster] are more open to artists," Zavada says. "If you're creative, they are open and they aren't asking for resumes and pomp and circumstance."
Lancaster is a "sophisticated Mayberry," Howell says, with the appeal of a small town and the cultural offerings of a more metropolitan area.
"We're trying to create some of our own uniqueness," Howell says."We have programs you just can't find in Charlotte."