Jason Koon, staff writer
Old School Studio (TOSS) will cap off a summer of arts activities and summer camps with an arts festival in downtown Morganton on Saturday.
Held at the Wednesday Farmers’ Market at the intersection of North Green Street and Avery Avenue, the festival runs from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and features food, activities, impromptu games and art for sale. TOSS founder Kathryn Ervin said she hopes scheduling the festival to coincide with the State of Origin Craft Brew Festival will make it a part of a larger community-wide gathering downtown on Saturday.
“The country of origin is right around the corner, so I’m hoping people will be bouncing between Fonta and the courthouse lawn,” she said.
The centerpiece of the event will be an exhibit designed by Artist in Residence Zak Foster, who worked with TOSS campers over the summer.
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“The campers had so much fun this year,” Ervin said. “We’ve explored really complex issues through art… Art is a powerful vehicle for self-discovery and I’m so proud of the work accomplished this summer.”
During the four-week summer camp, 90 local students explored career paths through art, creating more than 450 projects in total, according to Ervin.
“Children are so remarkably receptive. You take an idea and internalize it, and then the result is something very special and unique,” she said. “It was just really interesting to see how they brought the concepts to life.”
Foster agreed, saying he was inspired by his experience working with children at TOSS.
“Kids just know what they like in a way that adults don’t,” Foster said. “There was no quibbling, no hesitation, they just went for it and jumped right in. That really inspired me.”
For Foster, the TOSS camps were his first experience of teaching children to sew.
“I didn’t know how much they could actually sew,” he said. “I enlisted the help of some friends who had worked with children in the past with sewing and they gave me some good tips and some good projects.”
Foster is a quilter who makes memorial quilts for people who have lost loved ones.
“When someone dies, the family sends me clothes and I make a quilt out of them,” he said.
At the TOSS Art Party, Foster will be exhibiting a piece entitled ‘Afterlife’ which is a series of quilts created to breathe new life into old discarded textiles.
“(They) capture his interpretation of circularity,” Ervin said. “It’s the founding principle of material return, a social enterprise that breathes new life into discarded fabrics.”
Foster said one of his guiding principles in life and art is “to live as lightly as possible on earth.”
“For me, that means not buying a lot of new stuff to create my work, but trying to work with the resources that are already around me to make these quilts,” he said. “In that sense, my values are pretty much in line with TOSS.”
Foster said he visited Opportunity Threads in Morganton on his first day at his residence. He was inspired by the process they use and the leftovers that aren’t used in the process.
“Their system is that people send them t-shirts, they cut out a huge square from the front and what’s left is recycled,” he said. “It was these leftovers that I found really interesting. They were like frames; they were like windows to look through.”
Foster turned these “frames” into his project at TOSS, along with some reused raw materials.
“I tried to arrange them in a way that made them feel kind of alive,” he said. “Everything in the project was reclaimed or repurposed.”
Ervin said it’s a rare opportunity for a rural community to have an artist in residence, but believes it can allow her organization to foster community conversations about important issues, like in this case reuse and sustainability.
“A resident artist is an incredible opportunity for a maker to develop a creative project based on a specific theme,” she said. “In a small, rural community, we need such forums for civil dialogue where we can all come together.”
In addition to the art exhibitions, TOSS students will also sell works they have created over the summer.
Dining is provided by Timberwoods, Mom’s Egg Rolls and Super Ice Cream. Camp families receive four free food passes. Anyone can buy food and all other activities at the TOSS Summer Art Party are free.
Jason Koon is a staff writer and can be reached at [email protected]