[All images show Ellen Shankin’s work. Click on this one to see her website.]
Floyd is unlike many of the "art colonies" I have known which had galleries galore, but not many working artists and craftspeople in public view.
Floyd is a farming community blessed with an abundance of artists. It still has its roots firmly set into the soil, but the future growth of the community may well be determined by how well the artisans of Floyd County can integrate their efforts into the overall economy.
The creative level of an area has a great deal to do with its attractiveness to new settlers and new businesses. Floyd has an abundance of talent and it is readily accessible to visitors.
Places like Pacific Grove, Santa Barbara, Provincetown, Santa Fe, Coconut Grove, etc., are favorite tourist destinations because of their natural beauty and the concentration of all forms of art, whether painting, drawing, clay, sculpture, or jewelry.
Floyd has a few galleries which display the works of local artists and artisans, but the distinguishing feature of this isolated and beautiful county is the wealth of artists and craftspeople on almost every back road.
I live in the northeast corner of Floyd County, nine miles from the only stoplight and there are well-known artists scattered all around the immediate area. You cannot drive down a nearby dirt road without encountering a sign for some studio.
These artists have a wide range of backgrounds from self-taught to MFAs from prestigious schools. Their reputations are often international and they may exhibit all over the world.
The common denominator that I see as a newcomer is that the artists I have met have talent and aren’t afraid of sharing it. Some artists have apprenticeships, some teach at the Jacksonville Center for the Arts, others put on workshops.
If you visit Floyd and stay any length of time, you can’t help but get caught up in the creative flow. It is probably one of the strongest forces driving people to move to Floyd instead of attractive places offering more choices of professional employment.
Gretchen and I went on the deservedly famous 16 Hands Studio Tour this last weekend and had time to visit two of the studios. On the way to these studios, we passed several other excellent studios which weren’t on the tour.
The net result of this abundance of artists is that you can find art at every price level in Floyd. It is never easy to make a living through art, but there is a community of people here in Floyd who are certainly doing a reasonably good job of it.
There also seems to be an awareness in the community at large that art is an important part of what Floyd has to offer and there are various efforts underway to teach artists how to become more viable.
I hope these efforts bear fruit. I feel that art is the key to Floyd’s future.