By Julia Merchant • Staff Writer
The misty mountaintops and bubbling creeks of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have served as a source of inspiration for countless artists. In celebration of the Parks’ 75th anniversary, some are now choosing to give back to the place that has given them so much by creating special pieces to benefit the Park.
“Pastels for the Park,” which opens June 6 at the Artists House Too in Bryson City, brings together 11 pastel artists who have created 36 paintings of the Park’s natural wonders. Ten percent of the proceeds from sales of the pieces will be donated to the Friends of the Smokies, the only North Carolina nonprofit that works on behalf of the Park. The exhibit is one of the only artists shows sanctioned as an official 75th Anniversary Celebration event.
“Being that it’s in my back yard and I use it constantly, I thought it would be nice to do some sort of event that would benefit the Park in some way and bring more attention to our side of the Park,” said Artists Too owner Peggy Duncan, who came up with the idea for the show.
Duncan recruited fellow members of the Appalachian Pastel Society to create pieces for the show. Each painting is done with pastels, which are pure sticks of pigment mixed with a tiny amount of binder.
The scenes chosen by the artists are varied, ranging from wildflowers like trilliums to rushing water scenes with creek and rivers to some of the Park’s best-loved mountain views.
Duncan herself has contributed three paintings for the show of her favorite Park spots. One is of the Oconaluftee River cascading near the Smokemont Campground. Another depicts the confluence of Deep and Indian creeks, a popular destination in Swain County. A third painting is of a fisherman casting his fly at Deep Creek.
“I think we have a beautiful show,” Duncan said. “It hangs together very well. The pieces are different and varied, and subject matter and color are very soothing. There are a lot of nice, soft pieces, and very vivid bright pieces.”
The paintings range in size from a small 6-by-8-piece to larger, 24-by-30-inch framed images, and run from $120 to $900.
“In this kind of economy it’s hard for people to think about purchasing art,” said Duncan. “All the artists have made their prices very reasonable. We would love to have a big turnout and some sales to benefit the park.”