Druid City Arts Festival attracts students, community

CW/ Keely Brewer

Kinsley Centers, Contributing Writer

Art is beyond a canvas or paint brush, and the Druid City Arts Festival (DCAF) exemplifies that. Art can consist of paintings, jewelry, candles and clay moldings. DCAF offered vendors that showcased their art through a variety of styles.

DCAF celebrated its 10-year anniversary on April 5-6, 2019.  The festival is typically one day, but this year Cadence Bank presented the first ever two-day event. Thousands of Tuscaloosans gathered at Government Plaza for live music, food, community and art.

Vendors from around the state of Alabama and country displayed art that was available for purchase in tents scattered throughout the plaza. Attendees traveled from tent to tent admiring and buying available pieces.

Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports Director of Community Development Bill Buchanan has been actively involved with the festival for four years now.

“We wanted to do something very special this year and so we had a Friday night component as well as our usual Saturday event, and Friday night we didn’t know what to expect because we have never done that before, and it was very successful,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan said over the past decade, all who are involved with planning and working on the festival work diligently months in advance to put on a smooth and fun event for the community.

“It’s a lot of work and a lot of planning but it really pays off, you know, if you look around, you just see people enjoying themselves, and it’s about fun and having a good time,” Buchanan said.

The DCAF was for all community members no matter their age or budget. The event was free and the only cost participants may have had to pay is the food they ate, the art they purchased and souvenirs such as T-shirts.

Along with live music and art, the festival also offered a Kids Zone with a variety of activities such as bouncy houses, face painting and an area where children could create their own art on the sidewalk with chalk.

“It is a great cross section of Tuscaloosa,” Buchanan said. “DCAF is not for this one group or this one group or this one age group. It’s for everybody.”

DCAF is not just about the art, it is about the Tuscaloosa community as a whole. Buchanan said the goal for DCAF is to bring everyone together and allow them to have a good time.

“It’s just a wonderful atmosphere, and that’s what we want to maintain, and we want it to be the people’s festival that everybody can come out and enjoy,” Buchanan said.

Carrie Alderfer, a freelance artist with ChromAddict, grew up in Rock Hill, South Carolina and then later moved to Huntsville, Alabama where she has ran her own art business since 2002.

“I’ve always drawn. My mom says I drew on the walls, on the window sills when I got in trouble for drawing on the walls,” Alderfer said. “It was behind the curtains [hidden], so it’s just what I’ve always done.”

Alderfer creates art by hand and through technology with graphic designs by designing websites and logos for her customers.

She has participated in art festivals for the past five years, however this was her first time being a vendor at DCAF, and it was a success. The art Alderfer had on display at the event showcased various canvases with animals and nature.

Her art is created by hand drawing layers of color pencil and Neocolored II crayons. When adding a whimsical finish to her creations, she details the project with acrylic paint pens and acrylic paint.

“With color pencils, I really have to plan everything out ahead of time because you can’t erase, and you can only put so many layers on it, so it either works or it doesn’t,” Alderfer said.

Depending on the day, Alderfer said she can finish her work within the same day or it may take time depending on the project and whether or not she has a high demand with deadlines.

“I can do, you know like, a couple 5×7’s usually in an afternoon if I’m lucky and I already know what I’m making,” Alderfer said. “If someone wants one of the really realistic detailed, totally color pencil like an 8×10, it can be, like, 20 hours. It just depends on what I’m doing.”

As an artist, Alderfer said each project goes through different processes and will sometimes go through an ugly phase. However, she said since she plans her art step by step with her utensils, they turn out how she wants them to.

“You end up with pieces that you love and pieces that you’re like. ‘it’s okay,’” Alderfer said. “It’s just part of the process.”

Suzanne Dabbs, the owner of Love Me Knots Designs, has been a part of DCAF as a vendor for six years now. Dabbs founded her business seven years ago and has been selling handmade jewelry pieces from Northport, Alabama. Since they do not have a storefront, it is not uncommon to find Dabbs and her business partner, Christie Evans, at craft fairs and festivals.  

Dabbs said in the beginning, the business started out making knotted Emi Jay-inspired hair ties to now creating various pieces of jewelry that include freshwater pearls, leather, rosary and more.

“We actually, you know, get the leather from the rolls and, you know, get the freshwater [pearls] so it is an art,” Dabbs said. “Every knot that we make, every bead that we string, you know it’s just a work of art. All of the pieces are different.”

Love Me Knots Designs keeps its prices reasonable for customers while offering a wide variety of accessories. Dabbs said her family keeps her inspired as she works hard to keep the business going and growing. She enjoys getting to know the people who come to DCAF while also getting to see her regular customers.

“I love doing this,” Dabbs said. “I love coming out and, you know, meeting new people.”

Rebecca Skipper is an advanced participant with the Crimson Clay Club. Skipper graduated from the University of Alabama last year, but she still takes the ceramic class and is looked up to as a role model by other students involved.

The Crimson Clay Club creates various pieces of art and as the majority of pieces on display were mugs, they are all custom sculpting designs by the members. The students each have individual techniques, and their creations were showcased at the DCAF.

“We have different processes,” Skipper said. “We make things a different way so having all of this together, you kind of get to see a huge community come together and kind of wrap similarities.”

Some mugs created by the club may look similar in color or style, but they all have their differences and represent art in the way the creators want to portray it.

“Everybody has a different art around them, so you don’t see the same cup but you’re seeing everybody’s own art perspective,” Skipper said. “So it’s everybody’s own perspective of their art in different shapes and forms, and you kind of start to see some similarities, but everybody’s is different and everybody has their own process.”

Buchanan is thankful for the Tuscaloosa community for their participation and support over the years at the DCAF.

“We thank people for supporting the festival, the media that helps us out, the people you know retweeting and re-posting on Facebook to get the message out and we really appreciate the people in the community, because that’s what makes the festival – all these people, you know, coming out and enjoying themselves,” Buchanan said.