Wednesday, April 21, 2010


The City of York got its first official Historic marker. The unveiling was on a Saturday morning on the grounds of the Coleman Center. The event was really a tribute to bonafide Yorker, Artist, and CC founder, Tut Riddick.

About 50 or so people came out. The Mayor spoke, a Senator spoke, a Congressman's wife was there, songs were sung.

One side of the marker commemorates The Coleman Center, its founding and its mission. I was a little heartened because the Education Program gets a mention here. I'm at least half responsible for its existence and I work hard to keep its wheels rolling so I will consider this marker a speck of my own immortality.

The other side of the marker gives a brief rundown of York history. No mention of slaves and all that dirty business but I think that's just taken for granted. This area was always relatively poor and out of the way anyways. There were never really any huge plantations or massive importations of human chattel. Not like, say... New York City and Newport, Rhode Island. (Google Wall Street slave market and Newport slave traders) Heh.

Tut shared a few of her poems. In her writing as in her paintings, Tut is all about the homage. She renders portraits of the people and places that inspire her. She told me she has a painting of me at her place down in Mobile so I guess I have arrived.

The rest of this York Homecoming day was taken up by a few more presentations, speeches, craft sales, and community singing. But in typical and very refreshing York fashion, this little fair was oh-so-mellow, friendly, and crowdless.

The Coleman Center brought in Alabama Art Casting, a traveling foundry with a hands-on, audience participation approach.

I love what these guys are doing - bringing this otherwise rarely witnessed process to the public. Metal castings are all over the place but few of us are aware of what goes into it and how it's done.

The townsfolk got to etch an image into these tightly compressed blocks of very fine sand.

Then after a couple dozen sand plates are ready, the crew pours the molten metal.

It's bright bright orange and flows as loose and liquidy as water.

The flames leap high. The smoke billows wider. You can feel the heat many yards away.

The strong, alien odor causes reaction.

The metal plates seem to cure quite rapidly, soon reverting to a more familiar-looking metal. But as they're spread out for cooling they're still deadly hot at over 800 degrees.

The medieval tools and equipment; the cowhide protective gear; the heavy shielded masks; the shooting flames and the noise. Alabama Art Casting combines education and awesome spectacle.

The leader of the group is the good man, Johnny P. Williams, also a York native, who was very happy to return to his hometown on this fine day.

The best part of that clip is the adorable lilt of the Southern "Yay".


Then over in Livingston, our county seat, there's the annual Sucarnochee Folk Life Festival. Kinda typical small town faire - craft booths, food, and live music.
Not the kind of thing I'd be inclined to attend but, again, this is Sumter County in Black Belt Alabama. No hype, no crowds, total relaxed friendliness. It's just about hanging loose and running into people you know.

Coleman Center wanted to have a presence there and asked me to help out but I didn't have any ideas for an outdoor craftsy project for random passersby. So I just kinda threw up my hands.

Then Shana recalled a photograph of a project I'd done in New York and New Jersey schools. She thought 'Build Your Own City' would be perfect for Sucarnochee and I agreed.

You just have to gather old cereal boxes, construction paper, scissors, glue and...Voila.

And it was kind of a hit. Folks of all ages formed a constant stream of builders.
This little girl pretty much camped out and single-handedly built an entire subdivision.

Sumter County ain't the most diverse place. It's basically Black, White, and Christian all over. When I see foreigners I tend to perk up.

I thought these wonderful young ladies might be South American but it turns out they're Native American. So who's the foreigner here, eh?
I love Alabama history and the deep Indian connection so I should've asked which tribe they represent but we were having too much fun cutting and pasting and gabbing it up.

I get a little cranky around crafty things. I'll forever maintain the snobby notion that Art and Crafts should be forever separated. I'm constantly reminding my students of the distinction between the two.
But I ain't gonna lie - crafts are an easy path to fun and you can't name one that isn't totally innocent.