All about the art: ArtFields comes to Lake City; Sumter, Clarendon, Camden artists will compete


Since its official launch in 2013, ArtFields has attracted more and more visitors each spring to the nine-day art event in tiny Lake City, South Carolina. The number of artists entering the competition has grown, too, as they vie to become one of 400 accepted from 12 Southeastern states.

More than $140,000 is awarded each year - including $50,000 for the winner, $25,000 for second place, $12,500 for People's Choice and $2,000 for the artwork judged best from each of the 12 states. While the large prizes attract many talented artists, ArtFields' staff and volunteers said the event is also important to visitors and to the town of Lake City, just 35 miles east of Sumter.

Once a leader in agriculture, particularly beans and strawberries at different times in its history, Lake City is now celebrated for initiating the art festival and growing it.

Community members are active participants, with more than 50 nonprofits, businesses, industries, restaurants and other venues exhibiting some of the 400 entries throughout the April 26-May 4 festival.

Other exhibition venues include renovated 1920s warehouses and professional art spaces such as Jones-Carter Gallery and TRAX Visual Art Center and the library, the history museum and the Ronald E. McNair Life History Center.

Shuttles are available for those who can't easily walk around town.

Roberta Burns, a staff member, said each spring offers "400 new pieces of art, and this year we've got two new murals and three bands on stage in addition to several street performers playing live music."

Art goes on display the first day, and additional activities include art walks and wine walks at the famous Moore Botanical Gardens. There, too, visitors can learn the art of bonsai and make their own, learn "the art of gardening," make leaf castings and more. Most activities are free, but several are ticketed events. The Makers Market offers the opportunity to talk to the "makers," see and purchase the artists' creations.

There's a large food court on the village green, and Rhythm Nation, Infinity Show Band and the Harlem Gospel Choir will perform there, as well.

ArtFields' staff also recognizes and nurtures the creativity of young people with ArtFields Jr. The program offers them the opportunity to immerse themselves in art, "doing things they've often never done before, like see live artistic performances and art exhibitions, spend time talking with 'real' artists and learn and deepen their skills with studio art instruction."

Several young artists from Sumter and Clarendon counties have been accepted into the ArtFields Jr. program. They include Ella Marian Askins and Ruby Dozier of Manning; Preston Hammett of New Zion; Carolina Hoppmann of Dalzell; and Sumter's Catharine Busch, Lauren Champion, Chandler Patrick, Ingrid Singleton, Kaitlyn Smith, Maggie Solberg, Mary Margaret Terry and Alexandria Trapp.

Sumter Artists Guild member Thomas Alexander Blackmon of Manning, who works primarily in pyrography, was accepted into the main ArtFields exhibition and competition.

While the monetary prizes are important to artists, Vicki Hagner, who won the People's Choice Award in 2018, said at the time that the win meant more than that. She commented at the time, "It is a validation of my passion for this unique art technique (3-D, mosaic), and I was so touched that people saw its beauty."

"Art creates a powerful dialogue and provokes the viewer to ponder its message," Hagner said at a later date, echoing the sentiment of ArtFields coordinators.

What started with the simple goal of honoring the artists of the Southeast - a concept initiated by businesswoman, entrepreneur and Lake City native Darla Moore - has grown into one of the largest and most celebrated living art exhibitions in the country.

ArtFields will begin Friday, April 26, and run through May 4. Admission to art venues and most activities is free. For more information and a complete list of events, visit