Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 7, 2012

Ashland’s artists shine for holiday First Friday

Tim Preston
The Independent

ASHLAND — Artists at downtown Ashland’s Pendleton Art Center welcomed all whose Christmas shopping lists remain incomplete during Ashland Main Street’s Christmas on Main Street celebration and the final First Friday of 2012.

Inclement weather put a damper on any threat of a crowd, although those who gathered in the city’s downtown art district were nonetheless filled with holiday spirit. Cleaning her brushes after completing a knife painting titled “Wild Pack,” artist Melanie Osborne said the downtown collection of artists’ studios offers outstanding gift choices for anyone seeking one-of-a-kind and unusual items.

“I do hope more people realize we have a lot of good homemade items,” Osborne said, just before introducing her new neighbor at the arts center, Andrea Prince.

Prince, a native of Crum, W.Va., who studied art in Memphis and New York before returning to the Ashland area, said her art is, “mostly landscape referenced, verging into contemporary abstraction.” After seeing the work of other Pendleton artists, Prince said the downtown arts center is a great place for Christmas shoppers.

“It’s good for anyone who wants anything unique, one-of-a-kind, handmade or something that speaks of Kentucky,” Prince said.

Welcoming customers to her brightly colored studio space, Katie Wurtz displayed a selection of custom jewelry, purses and children’s apparel at Katie’s Kreations & Libby’s Boutique. Wurtz said she and her mother, Libby, especially enjoy making custom orders for those seeking something that accents their own style and personality. The 2010 graduate of Rose Hill High School said she has a tremendous appreciation of the Pendleton Art Center surroundings.

“It’s great. I love the environment. I love everyone here. I love all of the artists,” she said.

A block away on the other side of the avenue, musician Warren Smith departed from his usual role as bassist for the band Private I’s and used a 12-string Grand Chapman Stick to play original compositions for visitors at 1414 Gallery. As listeners repeated rumors about Smith’s five-hour daily practice schedule, organizers explained he is one of the artists featured by Huntington’s MiAppa (Made in Appalachia) group. Smith said the unusual instrument is played with both hands on the fretboard, combining six strings for bass notes and six more for mid and treble range sounds.

“It’s kind of like an upright piano with strings,” Smith said with a chuckle, explaining the instrument is primarily played using a tapping technique.

Above Winchester Avenue, Paintsville musicians Mark Young and Brian Brown tuned their acoustic guitars and offered the gallery audience a selection of songs including Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” while guests browsed the work of featured artist Nikki Holmes. As the music played, Jack Steele of Ashland bought two of Holmes’ digitally manipulated photos as a christmas gift.

“I think all of her pictures look good,” Steele said. “Nikki’s got a talent, and I just want to encourage her all I can because she’s had a rough year ... She lost her daddy (Maverick Holmes). He was my best friend for 43 years and Nikki is like my second daughter.”

More than 30 members of the Rock Hill Middle School Choir performed a selection of songs, including Christmas carols. Youngsters, including Allie Bostic, 6, of Ironton, took a turn sitting on Santa’s lap at the Camayo Arcade Building, where members of the Hilltop Homemakers offered guests their choice of handmade sweets and confections. And, on the other side of the hall, dog lovers lined up to share their opinions with judges in charge of the annual Christmas Dog Costume contest. Despite the bad weather, two contestants shared their dogs with the small audience, with Pam Roe of Ashland handling Sophie and Jim Huffman of Ashland sharing the energy and affection of his Whippet, Lucy Lu.

Inside the Pendleton Art Center, Advance United Methodist Bell Choir Director Diana Williams and a dedicated group worked one note at a time to provide their portion of the evening’s holiday spirit. Williams said the group of more than a dozen musicians perform their set with the help of “five octaves worth of bells and choir chimes.”

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.