The Southern Agenda: August/ September 2013

Tim Bower
by Steve Russell - August/September 2013

Goings-on in the South & beyond 

If Downton Abbey reruns on PBS have you coveting an elaborate silver tea service, then get yourself to the Baltimore Summer Antiques Show (August 22–25). Not only is this the largest indoor antiques show in the country, but it has also earned a reputation as the nation’s most important silver expo, with more than thirty top dealers selling the best in Victorian, Russian, Tiffany, and Baltimore-made Stieff silver pieces. But the show’s reach extends far beyond metal, with more than five hundred furniture, art, jewelry, porcelain, textile, and book dealers filling the remaining aisles. Plenty of antiques shops and designers replenish their stocks at this show, so below-retail bargains abound. If your tastes run toward something a tad stronger than tea, scout a set of sterling julep cups instead.

Even when chef Edward Lee of Louisville, Kentucky’s acclaimed 610 Magnolia restaurant is on the road promoting his new cookbook, Smoke & Pickles, it’s hard to keep him out of the kitchen. This fall, the Iron Chef champ breaks from a cross-country book tour to headline a special Culinary and Wine Weekend (September 6–8) at the Viking Cooking School in Greenwood. On Friday and Saturday nights, Lee will commandeer the theater-style demo kitchen to prepare multicourse feasts for a rapt (and ravenous) audience, paired with wines chosen by 610 Magnolia wine director Robert Aquilino. The weekend package includes accommodations at the sumptuously appointed Alluvian Hotel and a pre-dinner reception with Lee and Aquilino. To satisfy your appetite in between dinners, the schedule also includes lunch at the classic Delta eatery Giardina’s.

North Carolina
The organizers of the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival (September 12–14), in Burnsville, have obviously attended plenty of lit fests dominated by best-selling authors and around-the-block autograph lines—and decided to do things a bit differently. Not to say there won’t be boldfaced names in attendance; Elizabeth Kostova, author of the immensely popular thriller The Historian, is confirmed. But with a focus on regional writers and small presses, the festival aims to create a temporary literary salon where readers, writers, and aspiring writers can share a love for quality literature on equal footing. Among the event’s unconventional twists: Respected local bookstore Malaprop’s takes care of all book sales, and individual signings are replaced by group sessions where authors are free to mingle with fans. A full roster of readings, workshops, and seminars unfolds at spots all across town, from the county courthouse to Mary Jane’s Bakery & Café.

Without the benefit of today’s arsenal of digital technology, globe-trotting scientific explorers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries brought along classically trained artists to record the animals, plants, and people they encountered, creating gorgeous tomes of new knowledge. Folio Editions: Art in the Service of Science (July 28, 2013–March 30, 2014), an exhibit at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, displays some of the finest examples of this lost tradition, including anthropological works by George Catlin and Karl Bodmer, Lord Kingsborough’s Mexican Antiquities, and English naturalist Mark Catesby’s Natural History: Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. A vivid collection created in the early eighteenth century, Catesby’s volume is regarded as the first published work to provide illustrations of North American flora and fauna. Given the number of snakes Catesby rendered so faithfully, it’s amazing he kept a steady hand.

South Carolina
Naming a food, wine, and music fete Euphoria (September 26–29) sets the bar pretty damn high. But the culinary and arts communities of Greenville have been ably meeting the challenge since hometown musician Edwin McCain and restaurateur Carl Sobocinski founded the downtown festival in 2006. Wine and beer seminars, tastings, and multi-course dinners abound. Friday night, choose from a slew of Southern dishes prepared by the hottest area restaurants at the open-air Wyche Pavilion, a former carriage factory overlooking the Reedy River. Just steps away, live music by local and visiting acts pumps from downtown’s outdoor amphitheater. Saturday night presents the toughest (and tastiest) decision, with seven restaurants hosting heavyweight guest chefs, including Jeff McInnis of Miami’s Yardbird and Rob Newton of Brooklyn’s Seersucker. No such conundrum exists Sunday, when the closing farm-to-table supper, supervised by chef Mike Lata of Charleston’s famed FIG, is the hot ticket. Euphoria, indeed.

Now that An Affair of the Art (September 21) has spent the last couple of decades atop the social calendars of Dallas’s young professionals, organizers have decided it’s old enough to play in the street. Hosted by the Dallas Museum of Art’s Junior Associates as a fund-raiser for the museum’s youth programs, the gala has traditionally been held inside the D.M.A.; now it’s moving outdoors into the heart of the Arts District, dropping the black-tie dress code and celebrating the loosened-up vibe with a vintage 1920s carnival theme, “A Fair Under the Stars.”  More than seven hundred revelers will enjoy live music, games, signature cocktails, and gourmet interpretations of classic fair foods: corn dogs, funnel cakes, fried Oreos, cotton candy, you name it. All ages are welcome—just as long as they support the arts and the rerouting of traffic. 

Thanks to centuries of practice, English hunts are practically artistic endeavors. So it should be no surprise that sporting prints, largely depicting the British countryside’s equine hunt culture, became highly sought after in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and remain so today. Catching Sight: The World of the British Sporting Print (August 31–December 29), a new exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, explores the genre and displays more than one hundred striking examples. The exhibit takes an innovative approach, examining the prints as art history rather than simply documentation of the rural gentry’s sporting tradition. Indeed, art historians have spotted their influence in works by artists as famous as Géricault and Degas.

Washington, D.C.
Fans of Glory will especially appreciate the National Gallery of Art’s new exhibition Tell It with Pride: The 54th Massachusetts Regiment and Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ Shaw Memorial (September 15, 2013–January 20, 2014), which documents in unsurpassed depth and detail the plight of the black Union soldiers who fought and died in a bloody Civil War battle near Charleston, South Carolina. The centerpiece is the outsize plaster cast of nineteenth-century sculptor Saint-Gaudens’ bronze relief depicting the troops marching through Boston in 1863, led by commanding officer Robert Gould Shaw on horseback. Photo portraits, letters, historical artwork, a recruiting poster, and the Medal of Honor awarded to Sergeant William H. Carney, the first black soldier to earn America’s highest military honor, round out the exhibit’s strong supporting cast. 

West Virginia
You’d think a crowd of unbridled enthusiasts would make the owners of a glass factory shudder. But the people at Milton-based Blenko Glass don’t mind the risk. In fact, the 120-year-old, family-owned glassmaker happily opens its doors to 1,500 eager fans during its annual Festival of Glass (August 2–3). Sign up early to secure a space in one of the Dalle-chipping sessions, where you can create one-of-a-kind stained-glass mosaics using thick shards of glass set into epoxy; or work alongside artisans to produce your own blown-glass vases, pitchers, and other functional pieces. After a few hours of instruction, you’ll feel like an expert—just don’t call these crash courses.