Just before spring break began, friends and family of Nation Ford High School art students gathered at Olive’s on Main Street in Fort Mill for some art appreciation.
The exhibit, which featured nearly 100 original student works, will run through April 29 and will be followed by an exhibition of Fort Mill High School student work that will coincide with the South Carolina Strawberry Festival through May 5.
Gallery owner Debbie Whitsett moved about setting up snacks and working the crowd with her characteristic down to Earth charm. An art enthusiast for as long as she can remember, Whitsett left south Charlotte area and opened a clay studio on Barberville Road in Indian land years ago.
She’s been at the downtown location for roughly four years and it suits her well. There’s a studio in the back of the gallery where she holds parties, classes, paint and sip events and month to month studio time.
“The kids will get some money (from sale of their work); the gallery gets a commission and 20 percent goes back into the art department,” explained Whitsett, who named the studio after her favorite – and smartest, she says – pet duck, Olive.
Friends and family members manned the coffee shop – dubbed The Mud Puddle – as folks roamed among a plethora of works in varying medium.
“We selected student pieces from all across the art department,” noted instructor Erin Mountain, who was on hand with her colleagues to support the students. Not all the pieces were for sale.
Senior Seth Schull’s mosaic sculpture was displayed prominently in the gallery’s front window. Titled “Breaking Through,” the artist used a variety of materials including mirrors, duct tape and foam to craft a man’s torso – built of thousands of pieces of irregularly shaped glass – rising out of a box containing uniform rectangular shapes.
“I was inspired by the idea that someone can break through the expectation of having to be the same and becoming different,” he said.
Painting, drawing, photography, ceramic, sculpture, mixed material pieces. There was something for every taste. Whitsett is looking forward to partnering with the teachers in the summer time for a show of their own. As artists themselves, that’s a good thing.
“I’m happy when I can exhibit,” said instructor Alicia Bagley and others nodded in agreement.
Olive’s Art Gallery – and the Mud Puddle coffee shop – is at 229 Main Street, Fort Mill.
Visit olivesmudpuddle.com or call 803-552-9255.