Chattanooga Times Free Press - ChattanoogaNow - - ARTS - STAFF RE­PORT

Two arts festivals are sched­uled in North Ge­or­gia this week­end. Both are Satur­day and Sun­day, May 26-27. Both charge $5 ad­mis­sion. But in terms of fea­tured work, they are al­most po­lar op­po­sites.

Spring Arts in the Park in Blue Ridge, Ga., has been held for more than four decades in Blue Ridge’s down­town City Park. The fes­ti­val, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, ben­e­fits the Blue Ridge Moun­tains Arts As­so­ci­a­tion.

This arts fes­ti­val fea­tures 175 ju­ried fine art and fine craft ex­hibitors.

Fine art com­bined with beau­ti­ful moun­tain scenery draws more than 13,000 vis­i­tors into small-town Blue Ridge over fes­ti­val week­ends. Blue Ridge was listed in 2015 as one of the top five art towns in Ge­or­gia by the Ge­or­gia Coun­cil of the Arts and rec­og­nized in 2016 and 2017 as one of the Top 10 Fine Craft Towns in Amer­ica by Amer­i­can Craft Week.

On the other end of the spec­trum is Fin­ster Fest, fea­tur­ing prim­i­tive and folk art, much of it by self­taught artists.

It will be held 11 a.m.-5 p. m. in Howard Fin­ster’s Par­adise Gar­den, which is just as vis­ually stim­u­lat­ing as the art­work sold there. It’s lo­cated at 200 N. Lewis St. in Sum­merville, Ga.

Fin­ster Fest hon­ors Sum­merville’s fa­mous folk artist, the Rev. Howard Fin­ster.

Fin­ster was a pro­lific self-taught artist who pro­duced nearly 47,000 pieces of art be­fore his death in 2001. He saw him­self as a sa­cred artist, record­ing his vi­sion­ary proph­e­sies and pro­vid­ing glimpses of a ce­les­tial outer space that God re­vealed to him.

Fin­ster built Par­adise Gar­den, a “rock and junk- en­crusted won­der­land,” as de­scribed by the Par­adise Gar­den Foun- da­tion. In 1976, as he was us­ing his fin­gers to ap­ply paint to a re­fur­bished bi­cy­cle, Fin­ster no­ticed that the paint smudge on the tip of his fin­ger looked like a hu­man face. He said a voice spoke to him, say­ing, “paint sa­cred art.”

From that point on, he turned out thou­sands of ser­mon- laden art­works with sub­jects rang­ing from his­tor­i­cal char­ac­ters and pop-cul­ture icons, such as Elvis Presley, to fan­tasy land­scapes and fu­tur­is­tic cities.

Fin­ster also de­signed record al­bum cov­ers for rock groups such as R.E.M. and Talk­ing Heads, later earn­ing a Record Al­bum Cover of the Year recog- ni­tion from Rolling Stone mag­a­zine.

In ad­di­tion to about 50 artists, there will be live music, bar­be­cue and other South­ern foods, a chil­dren’s area and the chance to tour Fin­ster’s fa­mous folk-art gar­den.

Ad­mis­sion ben­e­fits the non­profit Par­adise Gar­den Foun­da­tion. The founda- tion over­sees restora­tion and up­keep of Fin­ster’s 2-acre at­trac­tion.

Free park­ing can be found at the Wal­mart on High­way 27 just north of the gar­den, with a com­pli­men­tary shut­tle pro­vided. Hand­i­cap park­ing is avail­able on-site.

For more in­for­ma­tion: 706-808-0800.


Folk artist Howard Fin­ster’s World’s Folk Art Church in Par­adise Gar­den.

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