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Artists enrich Blue Plum festival experience

June 8th, 2013 9:54 pm by Kayla Carter

Artists enrich Blue Plum festival experience

Thousands of people gather in downtown Johnson City for the second day of the 14th annual Blue Plum Festival. (Ron Campbell/Johnson City Press)


While music sets the tone of downtown Johnson City’s annual Blue Plum Festival, the art-related activities and displays can enrich the overall experience.


For two days of the festival, the smell of spray paint used by regional graffiti artists during the Urban Art Throwdown has permeated the air near South Roan Street.


Christina Majic and her husband, Daruth Padilla, who were both painting their individual canvases Saturday, were able to also bring their daughter, Olivia, to the event.


Majic said she enjoyed meeting other people with the same interests and having them around her while she painted her piece, which promoted recycling.


“It’s great to have people around watching me work,” she said. 


Stencil artist Jess Mcpeak and Majic had the same goal in mind when they came to Blue Plum to share their art pieces. They both think of the Blue Plum Festival as a venue that allows them to show off their artistic abilities and stay off the streets.


“It’s about recognition and it’s nice to have this many people see my stuff,” Mcpeak said. “If it sells, awesome, if it doesn’t that’s fine. I’m just doing what I like to do and people seem to like my art and I want to get it out there as much as possible.”


After taking time to cool off inside the Animation Festival, Betty and Gene Butler said they were impressed by all of the creativity in the collection of short animations.


“They were all very imaginative,” Gene Butler said.


Also displaying imaginative works of art were vendors set up side-by-side on Main Street, other side streets and in front of businesses selling handmade jewelry, pottery, orgonite, hand-blown glass and environmentally friendly art.


Full-time pottery maker Kipp Brixey said the galleries he has placed all over the Tri-Cities, including the one at Unique Treasures in Johnson City, are successful, but nothing compares to the exposure he gets through festivals like Blue Plum.


“Festivals are crucial,” said Brixey, who is from Kingsport. “You don’t find new people in a gallery necessarily all the time. If you come to these places you can get all kinds of new people.”


Brixey said festivals provide him a chance to network with other artists and potential clients.


The Blue Plum festival helps artists like him survive, Brixey said. In return, the vendors and artists at the festival can make the overall experience for festivalgoers more cultural. Brixey also said the festival does a great job of promoting local culture.


“You can only go so far with just music at a festival,” Brixey said. “If you don’t have the crafts people coming, you lose the background and culture.”


The festival gives locals a chance to appreciate the artists in their community, Brixey said.


“A lot of folks don’t know there is something right next door that could just floor them,” Brixey said. “There are absolutely some of the most incredible artists in this area.”


When he’s not selling custom-made pieces of pottery at the festival, Brixey said he is walking around meeting people who may help his business prosper and vice versa.


“What I find when I walk around is connections,” Brixey said. “Artists in this area, we do have a hard time. The Blue Plum Festival brings a lot of us together and a lot of new people who are incredible.”


Brixey said the festival overall is a positive and relaxing experience for him.


“Blue Plum is awesome,” Brixey said. “A free festival is hard to beat.”

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