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The Start: A Southern Art Mystery

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New Orleans: 1917

Robert Wadsworth Grafton and Louis Oscar Griffith sat in their temporary studio in the lobby of the Saint Charles Hotel. Surrounded by a throng of people, you could feel the excitement buzzing as they watched the pair of artists work in tandem to carefully blend colors and brush strokes on dual canvases.

Topped by a gleaming white dome that was visible for miles, the Saint Charles Hotel was the grandest in the South and the first of all great American hotels. To commemorate the revitalization of horse racing in New Orleans, the grand hotel commissioned two paintings – “The Start” and “The Finish” – to capture the exhilaration of the horse races taking place at the newly opened New Orleans Fair Grounds, originally called Union Race Course.

Delighted onlookers, tourists, fellow artists and art students watched as the two American Impressionist painters, Grafton and Griffith, employed a dazzling array of colors to emphasize the brilliant Louisiana sunlight reflecting off the muscular bodies of the horses jockeying for position – the intensity of the race clearly etched in the faces of the jockeys.

The finished canvases were hung on display in the Saint Charles Hotel’s Men’s Café. Art reporter Flo Field loved the painting so much that in an article in the February 18, 1917 issue of the Times-Picayune paper, she wrote: “It isn’t a picture. It moves! The horses aren’t painted. They are racing.”

Grafton and Griffith made an immediate and enduring impression on New Orleans. During the early twentieth century, the two Midwestern artists wintered in the Crescent City and became active members of the artistic and literary community centered in the Vieux Carre. After the completion of the murals, the pair maintained an enduring relationship with the Saint Charles Hotel and even hosted an impressive exhibition of their New Orleans paintings at the hotel in 1922.

Although the Saint Charles Hotel was a local favorite and host to Mardi Gras balls and society events, after two fires and rebuilds, the hotel was torn down in 1974.  With the fall of the South’s first grand hotel, The Start and The Finish melted into obscurity. Then, in January 2007, “The Start” burst back onto the art scene when it was presented at an estate auction in New Orleans. Grafton and Griffith paintings of New Orleans are highly prized today. With interest from several southern institutions, the painting sold to the Morris Museum of Art for a record price and was added to their permanent collection.

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Today, visitors to the Morris Museum in Augusta, Georgia can get a glimpse of the New Orleans Fairgrounds through the eyes of Grafton and Griffith – just as they would have seen it nearly one hundred years ago. “The Start” is rich with details, including the presence of a timekeeper in a wooden tower, a crescent shaped moon clock announcing the time of the next race at 4:10 p.m., and the results board with two men readied to place the winning horse’s number in the appropriate slot.

It should be noted that there are indications that the painting could have originally been “The Finish” – but with the fate of the second painting still a mystery, visitors have to decide for themselves.

To see “The Start” along with other art that captures the South and works by southern artsits, visit the Morris Museum of Art at 1 Tenth Street in Augusta, Georgia. For information on upcoming exhibits and events, visit TheMorris.org or call (706) 724-7501.

2015 GRU Augusta Half Marathon and 10K

The GRU Augusta Half Marathon and 10K‘s tag line is “Half as long. Twice as cool.” And in 2015 I think it’s safe to say that it may still be half as long – but it’s definitely more than twice as cool. This year, the 13.1 half marathon distance and 6.2 mile 10K distance will still be available – but for those looking to tackle a more managable beginner’s distance, there will also be a Sports Fanatic 5K. Runners and walkers can dress up like their favorite athlete or wear their favorite team colors. Although there’s plenty of awesome new stuff going on – the aspects of the race that make it a local and visitor favorite remain. No matter which course you run, you’ll get great views of our historic downtown and Summerville neighborhood. We love this Run Pretty blog by Presley – it gives a great overview of what you can expect for the GRU Augusta Half Marathon. Register to run the half, 10K or 5K today and make the start of your 2015 awesome.

Run Pretty: 2013 Augusta Half Marathon

Sunday I ran my second half of the year. I have a feeling 2013 will be the year of half marathons for me. I’m having fun with them! Maybe 2014 will be my year for speed and short distances then? One can dream, right? I guess I could try to get a bit faster at the half distance this year, buuut that would require some sort of training. I really didn’t run much at all before this race other than running the ZOOMA Florida Half in January. Basically, I was under trained and overenthusiastic. ;) I do really want to break 2:00, so I supposed I’ll have to put some effort in soon!

Anyway, Saturday afternoon I went to the Augusta Half expo with my friend Logan and her friend Allison. It was a very small expo, but it had surprisingly decent booths and swag. For a smaller race, they definitely went out of their way to make it as exciting as possible. They even gave away free hot chocolate and coffee outside. They had me at liquid calories. ;) No, for real, the hot chocolate was the bomb. (Do people still say “the bomb”? I do when I can’t say “the s#*t”.)

augusta half marathon expo

Sunday morning I got up and got ready in my own house. I seriously have to start running more local races. Getting up and drinking your own coffee/eating your own peanut butter is miraculous. I chugged some coffee and scarfed down a huge peanut butter, honey, and cinnamon sandwich. I forgot my beloved bananas and chia seeds. I think I was still asleep. The weather was pretty chilly, but it was nothingcompared to what they had been forecasting leading up to the race. They had originally called for even colder weather and rain. HOLLA for just chilly temps and eventual sun! Can you tell I was cold here? It’s either that or I needed to pee really badly.

augusta half marathon

Logan, Allison, and I met up with Madeline and her friend Erynn before the race. Without really discussing it, we broke into groups. We all had a general idea of how we wanted to run, so I guess we naturally split up. Erynn was a speed demon, so she broke off immediately. Madeline and I decided to run together, followed by Logan and Allison.

I am so glad she let me run with her, because I hadn’t the slightest game plan going into this race. She had a smart racing strategy, which I definitely appreciated. After all, look at these hills:

augusta half marathon elevation

I didn’t wear my Garmin (story for another day), but I know our splits thanks to my running partner/coach. :)

Mile 1: 9:42

Mile 2: 9:32

Mile 3: 9:37

Toward the beginning of the race, there was a small bridge to warm us up. My ankles appreciated the tease before the killer inclines to come. Thankfully, it was followed by a flat stretch of road.

augusta half marathon

augusta half marathon slant

Miles four and five were probably the roughest miles of the day. The incline started slowly, but pretty soon your ankles wanted to gnaw your legs off to force you to stop running. That’s probably just my take on it, haha, but it was a loooong hill. You can’t really tell from the picture, but towards the turn at the top, it gets vicious. When you look at our splits, you can see us start to slow down at mile 4 and then totally die on mile 5. ;)

augusta half marathon hill

Mile 4: 9:53

Mile 5: 10:50

Mile six was pretty uneventful. There was a sizable chunk of downhill running, so we sped up. I honestly think that’s when I started to hurt myself a little. When we hit the climbs, I was very careful with my running. I was pretty haphazard on the way down, though. We were talking more and I just wasn’t paying attention. My poor ankles.

Mile 6: 9:13

Mile seven had a bit more ups and downs, but we also decided to just coast for a while. It was fun to chill out a bit.

Mile 7: 10:09

At the beginning of mile 8 was this beautiful beast. That hill was no joke, but we survived it relatively well. I think we were able to manage a consistent pace because we had relaxed leading up to it.

augusta half marathon hill

Mile 8: 10:07

There were a few more sporadic hill after that, but nothing as intense. I won’t lie, though, even small inclines pissed me off at that point. I’m pretty sure I said my fair share of nasty words.

Mile 9: 9:36

Miles 10 and 11 wrapped around Lake Olmstead. It was a nice change of scenery. I kept thinking the cars that were passing us were going to splash me with water from the road, but I made it out okay. That’s really not relevant to the race, is it?

augusta half marathon lake olmstead

Mile 10: 10:02

We both started to get pretty tight at the beginning of mile 11. We saw a wall (both literally and figuratively…) and stopped to stretch. My left IT band and my right ankle were screaming obscenities at me. I definitely needed to stretch. I felt so much better after stopping. It was also a lifesaver, because we came up on a very unexpected incline after that.

Mile 11: 11:04

Mile 12 contained the last “hill”, which really was just a bridge that made me angry. It’s all good, though. We survived.

Mile 12: 9:52

Once I saw the “MILE 12″ sign, I got so daggum excited. I knew we were almost done. We decided to speed up some and get this bad boy over with. Right at the end of mile 13, Madeline’s husband snapped a picture. 1.) I’m a nerd. 2.) At least I have proof I’m heal striking less. 3.) You can’t fake joy like that.

augusta half marathon

Mile 13: 9:04 (BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE!)

At that point, we sprinted to the finish holding hands (…into the sunset… no? fine).

Mile 13.1: 7:47

Official Time: 2:09:33

It was a challenging race, but it was so worth it in the end. I’m very grateful that Madeline let me run with her the entire time. I’m probably the most irritating person to run with. I may or may not have the most inconsistent pacing and carry on the most annoying conversations. I’m a joy. She PR’d by the way, so that was AWESOME. I’m pretty ready to PR now, too. BRING IT.

augusta half marathon

With that, the second half of 2013 was in the books. PS: How cute are the medals? My wedding was pink and green, so I’m definitely a fan.

augusta half marathon

The only real major problem for me was no fuel provided on the course. I generally am the most unprepared runner alive, so I needed a little something handed out. Madeline shared her chomps (edited: apparently they were honey stingers… maybe I really was totally out of it?!), so I am forever indebted to her. I will definitely be running this race again, although I will train next time for sure. Hill repeats are pretty necessary for this half. Trust me.

I also want to shout out to Logan for running her second half of the year. She’s a beast. :) Hope y’all are still having a good week!


Check out more of Presley’s Run Pretty blog here.

4 Secret Shopping Spots in Augusta, Ga

Gift shops – the place most people go when

A.)  They’re in a hurry

B.)  They can’t think of a single good gift idea

C.)  They’re in a hurry AND can’t think of a single good gift idea

Luckily for us, the gift shops around town happen to be awesome. And most people don’t know they’re awesome. But we do. In the spirit of gift giving – we’re letting you in on our secret shopping spots. So put down that tacky shot glass. (I mean, come on, does Uncle Bill really need another one to add to his collection?) And let the fun begin. Need some inspiration? Check out our Augusta Gift Guide with gift ideas for under $100, $50 and $25.

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Morris Museum of Art: We can’t say enough about how cool the Morris Museum of Art store is. Inside you’ll find everything from handcrafted wooden bowls made by Augusta artist David Welter to super cute owl felt birdhouses. And did we mention jewelry? Affordable rings, necklaces, bracelets and earrings by local artists sit alongside cufflinks and other items by Gogo Ferguson. Throughout the year, the Morris store also hosts trunk shows for various artists, providing the opportunity for visitors to meet the artist in person. The Morris Museum of Art is located at 2 Tenth Street in downtown Augusta – right off the Augusta Riverwalk.

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Sacred Heart Cultural Center: Hidden beneath the beautiful stained glass windows that characterize Sacred Heart Cultural Center, you’ll find their gift shop. Inside is a wide array of options, including pashminas, clutch bags, original art works and prints depicting the beautiful architecture of Sacred Heart and Southern cookbooks. Each year, Sacred Heart hosts the Garden Festival in April, providing the opportunity for visitors to purchase garden and home décor, and the Holiday Open House in early November, providing the opportunity for visitors to purchase holiday home décor and locally baked goods. Sacred Heart Cultural Center is located at 1301 Greene Street in downtown Augusta.

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Augusta Canal Discovery Center: The gift shop inside the Augusta Canal Discovery Center is as diverse as the Canal’s offerings. In addition to playful outdoor and yard décor like wind chimes and birdhouses, the gift shop also carries CDs with music by artists who perform live on board the Petersburg Boats during the seasonal Music Cruises. Gift certificates are also available for special Petersburg Boat and Music Cruises. The Augusta Canal Discovery Center is located at 1450 Greene Street inside the Enterprise Mill in Suite 400.

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Augusta Visitor Center: Although the Visitor Center has a great deal of information and brochures on Augusta area attractions, restaurants and hotels, it’s also a great source for clothing and other items with the Augusta, Georgia logo as well as golf themed gifts and regional food items like spiced pecans, barbeque sauce and Augusta’s signature cocktail mixer – The Azalea. If you’re hosting guests from out of town, Augusta or Georgia-themed gifts are perfect additions to welcome bags or baskets. The Augusta Visitor Center is located inside the Augusta Museum of History at 560 Reynolds Street in downtown Augusta, Ga.

Augusta Gift Guide

When trying to find the perfect gift, we all need a little help sometimes. When shopping we love local shops for their unique offerings.

Here are our 4 picks for gifts around $100, $50 and $25 at locally owned retail shops around Augusta. Click on the item links to purchase online (where available) or stop by Augusta’s local retail shops to find these and other unique items.

Around $100

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1) High Cotton MacIntosh Tartan Suspenders from Low Country Clothier – $125 – Buy Now

2) Tire City Potters Altered Centerpiece -$108 – Buy Now

3) Palm Frond Cuff Bracelet by Gogo Ferguson at the Morris Museum Store – $75

4) Men’s Augusta, Georgia Wind Jacket at the Augusta Visitor Center- $92

Around $50

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1) Tire City Potters Green Parafin Oil Lamp – $53 – Buy Now

2) Ronaldo Infinity Bracelet at The Swank Co. - $50

3) Blown Glass Votive Holder by Loretta Eby at Art on Broad - $32

4) Gourmet Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar set from High Country Olive Oils - $30 – $55 – Buy Now

Around $25

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1) Tire City Potters Faceted White Bowl – $28 – Buy Now

2) Fruitland Augusta Peach Tea Vodka at White Horse – $25

3) Stain Glass Peaches by Schweitzer Art Glass at the Augusta Visitor Center – $16

4) Jewelry by Popli Tin at Art on Broad – $15 – $26

Local Store Information:

Art on Broad – 1028 Broad Street, Augusta Ga – (706) 722-1028

Augusta Visitor Center – 560 Reynolds Street, Augusta Ga – (706) 724-4067

High Country Olive Oils – 343 Highland Avenue, Augusta Ga – (706) 854-0055

Low Country Clothier – 426 Furys Ferry Road, Augusta Ga – (706) 869-4230

Morris Museum of Art Store – 1 Tenth Street, Augusta Ga – (706) 724-7501

The Swank Co. – 391 Highland Avenue, Augusta Ga – (706) 364-3421

Tire City Potters – 210 Tenth Street, Augusta Ga – (706) 294-3871

White Horse Wine & Spirits – 497 Highland Avenue, Augusta Ga – (706) 733-2262

Inside Scoop for Georgia Governor’s Tourism Conference

If you’re in town for the Georgia Governor’s Tourism Conference this week, you’ll find plenty to do and lots of fun while you’re here.

Things to do while you’re here:

Got kids? On Wednesday mornings The Book Tavern hosts Super Awesome Story-Time. Take the kiddos for free cookies and a story while you browse and shop with your Augusta Current-C. For more information – check out The Book Tavern on Facebook!

Love music? Rock band Adelitas Way with special guests Starset and Refuge Lost will play at Sky City in downtown Augusta on Thursday, September 4th. Doors open at 8 p.m. Music starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door. Sky City accepts Augusta Current-C!

Love books? The Book Tavern will have a book signing on Thursday, September 4th. For more information – check out The Book Tavern on Facebook!

Love food? Veritas wine & tapas bar at La Maison on Telfair in downtown Augusta hosts a wine pairing on Thursday evening. Get 4 wines paired with 4 tapas for only $25. Also, all week long, get a free dessert (coupon here) to satisfy your sweet tooth after dinner at French Market Grille in Surrey Center. Both restaurants will be on the dine-around on Thursday evening and accept Augusta Current-C.

Love to shop? The conference may end on Friday, but your visit to Augusta doesn’t have to end yet! Stick around for another night and enjoy First Friday in downtown Augusta. The shops downtown stay open late. There’s live music and art. It’s awesome. And many of the downtown shops accept Augusta Current-C! Then, on Saturday, hit the Augusta Market for breakfast (you HAVE to try a Stuffed Puppy – it’s a giant hush puppy stuffed with grits, eggs, cheese and sausage) or go for a guided hike at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park.

Augusta Current-C

Attendees registered for the full conference – make sure to hang on to your Augusta Current-C! While you’re out downtown and at Surrey Center, look for the GTC Talk Bubble. Any business displaying it accepts Augusta Current-C.

Restaurants:

Augustino’s Bee’s Knees Boll Weevil Café Calvert’s
Craft and Vine Farmhaus Finch and Fifth French Market Grille
La Maison on Telfair Nacho Mama’s Oliviana’s Takosushi

Art Galleries / Shops:

Art on Broad Gallery on the Row
Vintage Ooollee
The Book Tavern
Oddfellows Gallery Zimmerman’s Gallery
Curvitude
Tire City Potters

Bars / Nightlife

O’Donovan’s Irish Pub
Sky City
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