On a warm autumn morning this past Saturday, around 50 artists from the Triangle area gathered at UNC Hospital’s Hillsborough Campus for Artist Appreciation Day, organized by the Hillsborough Farmers Market. Early in the day, the October sun lit up painted gourds, hubcap art, and handmade jewelry as local artists filled the space usually occupied by farmers on Saturday mornings.
“This is the first year [of Artist Appreciation Day],” said Rebekah Appleton, an assistant market manager for the Hillsborough Farmers Market. “We have had artist days in the past, but it was nothing like this… it’s twice as big as normal. We hope to make this an annual thing.”
The market managers advertised the event through social media and local newspapers and underwent screening processes to compile the right artists for Saturday’s event. The event in turn gave artists the opportunity to attract new customers. A wide range of mediums was represented, from cold wax and oil paintings by Julian Phelps to performance art by To the Pointe Dance, both out of Hillsborough.
“We put together a document and basically we had everybody send us their social media and examples of their art, what we thought would hit the target,” said Lindsay Cross, another assistant market manager.
Among the more unique artists were some of the ambassador animals from BeWild, a nonprofit organization that educates the community about exotic pet ownership. Ruby, a common boa constrictor, and Ari, an Eastern rattlesnake, created colorful works of art with non-toxic paint. Other animals who contributed art pieces include BeWild’s blue tongued skink, turtles, and exotic cockroaches. The proceeds from artworks created by these animals go back towards veterinarian bills and care for other rescue animals.
Michelle McKee, a former full-time vendor at the Farmers Market and founder of Eno River Design, displayed shirts and hats bearing a familiar logo: the word Hillsborough in the shape of North Carolina. Her merchandise can also be found at the Hillsborough Visitors Center.
“I started this business about five years ago because I couldn’t find a Hillsborough shirt that I liked,” McKee said. “They’re embroidered locally, the hats. [The t-shirts] are screen printed locally, the design is hand drawn. I have had people tell me that they were on the streets of Paris and saw my shirt… But the majority of my business, no doubt, is local.”
UNC Hospital’s Hillsborough campus has hosted the Farmers Market for three years. Farmers Market managers spoke to the beneficial relationship between the two organizations; UNC Hospital advertises for the market inside its facility, while doctors and patients sometimes visit the market for fresh air and produce on Saturdays.
“We’ve seen patients come out just getting some fresh air and getting sunlight. It’s a big boost for them,” said Darin Knapp, one of the market managers.
“And then to see this sort of thing,” Knapp added, gesturing towards the booths filled with handmade local art and fresh produce. “It’s something different.”