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Arts: Pawleys Island festival begins 22nd season

By Carrie Humphreys
For the Coastal Observer

The Pawleys Island Festival of Music and Art begins Sunday. Who would have predicted 22 years ago that our community would enjoy such a delightful cultural gift each year. The late philanthropist Dr. Lee Minton founded the festival hoping to provide the community with an annual festival of quality music, dance and visual arts. His dream lives on.

This season the curtain rises on a diverse showcase of superlative music, enlightening films, fun-filled family events, creative artworks, even a taste of the bubbly. Organizers tout the headliner, jazz singer Steve Tyrell, who returns for a repeat performance.

Other entertainers include blues connoisseur Mac Arnold, lyric soprano Taylor Johnson, classical jazz chamber ensemble Fireworks, cabaret charmer Deborah Silver and the Legends of Motown featuring Horizon.

Family amusements feature the third annual Chalk Walk and a recounting of “Once Upon a Time” by Bright Star Theater. Toss a wine-tasting festival fundraiser into the mix and this arty concoction is a sparkling potpourri of pleasure for local arts enthusiasts.

The concerts in a time when it is difficult to raise funding for the arts is quite an accomplishment for festival organizers.

“We’ve talked for years about the recession and how hard it is to raise money for the arts.” said Fred Newby, festival board chairman. “With the loss of the accommodations tax money from the county a few years ago and the loss of sponsorship from some of our large banks, many who no longer exist, somehow we’ve survived.”

Newby noted that ticket sales were slightly up last year. “As the economy gets better, we are gradually increasing our festival. We keep doing a few more things each year, but have to be conscious of the expense of production. The costs don’t go down, they just go up.”

Thus, no dance performers this year, Newby said.

“Unfortunately, but it is a function of money, because to have dance we have to put in a whole specialty dance floor for the dancers or they risk injury. A typical stage is not made for dance and a dance stage costs a fortune,” he said.

Newby’s goal remains the same, “to bring a variety of performances here not typically seen in the area.”

The big change for the 22nd annual gathering is the venue. The Reserve Golf Club hosts the majority of performances.

Galleries open doors to open festival

What’s a cultural arts fest without the visual arts?

A dozen art galleries open their creative spaces Sunday afternoon for a one day gallery crawl. Just follow the map – downloaded at pawleysmusic.com – from Murrells Inlet to Georgetown and feast your eyes on hundreds of works crafted by talented local artisans.

Admission is free and in some locations the galleries have included refreshments, musical entertainment and personal appearances of the featured artists.

Hosting the event are the Cheryl Newby Gallery, the Boyle Gallery, Ebb & Flow Art Co-op, Everything Murrells Inlet, Georgetown Art Gallery, Gray Man Gallery, Island Art, Prince George Gallery, Rice Museum, Seacoast Artist Guild Mall and Applewood galleries.

When: Sunday 2 to 6 p.m.

Documentaries on the screen at Litchfield

Four documentaries with American themes will be screened next week at the Pawleys Island Festival of Music and Art.

They will be shown in the Tara Theater at Litchfield Beach and Golf Resort. Admission is free, but reservations are recommended. Call 626-8911.

Young@Heart: Tuesday, 3 p.m.

Young@Heart is a dynamic senior citizens choral group that have traveled from college campuses to faraway continents entertaining and inspiring sold out audiences of all ages.

Viewers can enjoy the showbiz skills of these spirited octogenarians via the 2006 Walker George documentary, called “Young @ Heart.” The documentary won two Rose d’Or awards, the LA Film Festival Audience Award, was screened at Sundance in 2008 and shown in 2010 on PBS.

When formed in 1982, these spunky retirees were part of an elderly housing project in Northampton, Mass. In that first group were a few who lived through both world wars. Other performers included female impersonators, vaudevillians, mimes, as well as the not so typical singers and dancers.

The current performers in Young@Heart range in age from 73 to 89. Some boast prior professional theater or music experience, others have performed extensively on the amateur level, and some never stepped onto a stage before turning eighty. None of the current troupe was part of the original group, but they have kept alive the spirit of the early pioneers and continue to push the group into glorious new directions.

The Baruchs of Hobcaw: Tuesday 7 p.m.

Betsy Newman, documentary producer for South Carolina ETV, drove past Hobcaw Barony a hundred times as a girl and never knew anything about it. She does now. Newman spent a year researching, writing, directing, and editing “The Baruchs of Hobcaw.” Newman had total access to all of the Baruch records, including home movies filmed in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s.

“Hobcaw has a little bit of everything – politics, sex, money, adventure, nature – the Baruch story is so massive it could be a mini-series not an hour film,” Newman said.

Much of the documentary centers about Belle Baruch, the oldest child of Bernard Baruch and his wife Annie. The prominent financier, an advisor to presidents, purchased Hobcaw on the Waccamaw Neck in 1905, wintering there with his family.

Belle eventually purchased the 17,500-acre property from her father, later transforming it into nature preserve to be used for education and research.

“Nothing stood in Belles’ way,” Newman said. “I admire her a great deal. She was an environmental heroine when it wasn’t even talked about.”

World’s Smallest Airport: Wednesday, 3 p.m.

Fasten your seatbelts.

The “World’s Smallest Airport” features the daredevils Grady, Richard and Tunis Thrasher. When World War II ended, they returned to Georgia to resume their civilian lives. Starting from scratch Grady Thrasher Jr. managed to purchase some surplus planes — Piper Cubs, a Stearman biplane and two Ercoupes — from the Army for $200 to $500 each and a new 1946 Ford.

“They planned to teach people how to fly and give rides, but couldn’t generate much business,” said Grady Thrasher III, who co-produced the film using family memorabilia. “My dad really thought that personal aviation was going to be the transportation preference of the future with small airplanes, but that didn’t turn out to be the case.”

So the brothers moved their business to Elberton’s airport, which at the time consisted of a pasture and one hangar and began performing astonishing acts on aircraft, one in which a Thrasher stood on top of the plane as it coursed the skies, another where they landed a plane atop a moving car, hence the “World’s Smallest Airport.”

The elder Thrasher also took two Ercoupe planes and bolted them together to make one plane piloted from one cockpit.

The Thrasher Brothers Aerial Circus was born. The brothers performed 384 times throughout the United States over a five-year period closing in 1950 in Charleston.

King of the Beats: Wednesday, 7 p.m.

“King of the Beats” is the authoritative film biography of novelist/poet Jack Kerouac. This award -winning docudrama traces Kerouac’s life from his childhood roots in Lowell, Mass., to his death from alcoholism at 47. It features interviews with other Beat Generation luminaries including Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, as well as dramatic vignettes from all of Kerouac’s novels, specifically his most famous, “On the Road.”

Kerouac, whose prose was spontaneous and purportedly without edits, primarily wrote autobiographical novels based on actual events from his life and the people with whom he interacted. He became an underground celebrity and, with other beats, a progenitor of the hippie movement. His story fascinates.

Festival schedule: Find all the programs and times, and order tickets at pawleysmusic.com

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