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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.

November 2013 Weekend Whirl

We all need a little weekend getaway to keep things fun and to relax a little. November in Augusta, Ga brings cooler weather and bright fall colors along the Augusta Riverwalk and the Canal. Start planning your weekend whirl for November 8 – 10, 2013. Click here to see which hotels are available for the weekend.

What to do: Whether you want to learn about Augusta’s past, explore outside or celebrate culture, Augusta has lots of new experiences to offer.

Learn about the role Augusta played during the Civil War. Dr. Stephen Berry, associate professor of history and Gregory Chair in the Civil War Era at the University of Georgia presents: Lincolns and Todds: A House Divided on Friday evening.  The program continues on Saturday at the Morris Museum with a series of lectures and performances by noted historians.  View a special exhibition of Civil War themed artworks in the education gallery. Advanced registration required for Saturday.

Enjoy the fifty shades of autumn along the Augusta Canal. Sid Mullis, UGA Extension service for Richmond County, and Judy Gordon, Ph.D., botanist at GRU, lead a walk along the canal that celebrates the fall season. Augusta’s autumn colors often peak in early to mid-November. Falling leaves reveal species you might not otherwise notice. Admission is $2. Visit AugustaCanal.com for more information.

Immerse yourself in Native American culture. Phinizy Swamp Nature Park will host the Oka’ Chaffa Indian Festival and celebrate Native American culture with live Native American dances and songs, storytellers, wildlife displays, live buffalo, arts and crafts, and a Living Tipi Village. Admission is $12 for adults and $6 for children (ages 6-12). For more info, visit NaturalSciencesAcademy.org.

Where to shop: You won’t have to worry that someone at a holiday party has the same necklace as you. You won’t have to give your dad another tie as a gift either – when you shop at Augusta’s local boutiques and stores.

Get swanky home swag with Southern charm. Capture a bit of Southern sass for your home with fun picture frames, quirky wall art and lots of cute accessories and stocking stuffers at The Swank Co.

Build a better library. Spend a little time chatting with the friendly folks at The Book Tavern about your favorite authors or books and let them make suggestions for what to read next! Or browse through their selection of new, used and rare books on your own to see what you discover. We promise it’s not your average chain book store experience!

Get an Augusta hoodie to take home. Cooler weather means it’s time to break out the hoodies! You’ll have plenty to choose from along with men’s polos, hats, sunglasses and lots more Augusta themed gifts at the Augusta Visitor Center located inside the Augusta Museum of History.

What to eat: The local food scene in Augusta makes it hard to choose – but here are a few suggestions. You can always come back another weekend and try more!

Fish & Chips. Augusta’s local English-style pub – Boar’s Head Public House – serves up a mean fish & chips dish along with other English pub food like bangers & mash and Sheppard’s Pie. After dinner, stick around and play darts or chess with an imperial pint of British ale.

Soul Food & Sweet Tea. The Cotton Patch takes comfort food seriously. Classics like fried pork chops and macaroni & cheese are served up on big plates with generous portions. They also believe sweet tea is an art – you won’t find a better brew anywhere around town.

Spaghetti & Meatballs. Luigi’s has been a downtown establishment since 1949. Take a bite of their spaghetti & meatballs with garlic bread and you’ll know why. Don’t make any plans after dinner. You’ll leave happy and full – the perfect combination for a nap!

Want more info? Visit www.AugustaGa.org for a full calendar of events and list of restaurants and attractions.

Check off your Fall Bucket List in Augusta

I don’t know about you, but Fall makes me want to walk among the changing leaves, listen to ghost tales and warm up with a hot cup of coffee or hot cider. With that in mind, I made my Fall Bucket list with lots of fun ways to celebrate the changing of the season in Augusta! Below, you’ll find helpful links so that you can start planning your Augusta adventure too!

1. Make a Forever Pumpkin at Tire City Potters: https://www.facebook.com/tcpotters

2. Admire the changing colors along the Riverwalk: http://www.augustaga.org/Things-to-Do/Attractions/Augusta-Riverwalk

3. Go on a spooky adventure with the Augusta Ghost Trolley: https://www.facebook.com/AugustaGhostTrolley

4. Take a moonlight hike through Phinizy Swamp: http://naturalsciencesacademy.org/calendar/

5. Eat pumpkin muffins from New Moon Cafe: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-New-Moon-Cafe/461891810716

6. Drink hot coffee from Buona Caffe: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Buona-Caffe-Artisan-Roasted-Coffee/419877860272

7. Visit The Maize at Steed’s Dairy: http://www.steedsdairy.com/projects.html

See you soon!

Weekend Whirl

“Whirl (N): a rapid round of events, affairs, etc”

We all need a little mini-vacation sometimes and a weekend whirl to freshen things up is always fun. November in Augusta, Ga brings vibrant colors, a chill in the air, and anticipation for the holidays. So start planning your weekend getaway for November 11th through November 13th.

Friday Night

Dinner and a Show. Fort Gordon Dinner Theatre brings a funny and fresh holiday play to life this season with Christmas Belles. Don’t worry about trying to catch dinner before the show, you can grab dinner at the theatre!

Saturday 

Breakfast and a Cruise. Grab breakfast from  Fat Man’s Mill Café before heading right across the parking lot to the Augusta Canal and Interpretive Center. After you’ve had the chance to explore the history behind the canal, hop on a Petersburg Boat and cruise down the canal to enjoy all the beautiful fall foliage!

Head back to the hotel to rest and get ready for dinner!

Follow the Crums. Grab an early dinner at the trendy Crums on Central. Make sure you try the Bacon wrapped Seafood Stuffed Mushrooms or a fire grilled pizza!

Relive West Side Story. The Symphony Orchestra Augusta brings this classic story to life with all your favorite songs from the Broadway musical and the movie.

Sunday

Shop til You Drop! Christmas Made in the South provides the perfect place to shop for every hard-to-buy-for friend and relative on your holiday shopping list!

Weekend Whirl

“Whirl (N): a rapid round of events, affairs, etc”

We all need a little mini-vacation sometimes and a weekend whirl to freshen things up is always fun. October in Augusta, Ga ushers in cool fall weather and plenty of ways to enjoy it. Downtown is in full swing with exhibits, concerts, performing arts and festivals. So start planning your trip now for October 14th – 16th!

Friday Night

Cruise the Augusta Canal. Order dinner to go from Casa Blanca Cafe, grab a bottle of wine and a light blanket and put it all in a picnic basket before you head down to the Augusta Canal for a moonlight cruise with live music on board.

   

Saturday

Cruise around town. After strolling through the Saturday Market on the River, head over to the Augusta Museum of History and take a historic tour of Augusta aboard a trolley. You’ll learn about the legend of the Haunted Pillar, the bones in the basement of the Old Medical College building and lots of other cool facts about the history of Augusta.

Art Credit: Leonard "Porkchop" Zimmerman

 

Cruise through Gåårtdensity. Pronounced Garden City, Gåårtdensity Gallery offers an eclectic mix of urban art and jewelry from local artists. Make sure you check out one of my favorite artists – Leonard “Porkchop” Zimmerman – at the gallery. You’ll love his fun interpretation of pumpkins as part of the “Lurking in the Orange” exhibit, opening this weekend!

Cruise to 5 O’Clock. Head over to Kings Way and dine like a king for dinner at the 5 O’Clock Bistro. Make sure you try the Southern Fried Goat Cheese Pie with Georgia Peach Vinaigrette – it is absolutely delicious!

  

Zombies are cruisin’ for a bruisin’. Learn how to spot and slay zombies in Augusta’s first interactive haunted attraction – Zombie Apocalypse Survival Camp. Le Chat Noir combines off-Broadway style theatre with haunted house scares and audience participation for an awesome Halloween season experience that you definitely should try.

Sunday

Cruise through the sky. Boshears Skyfest is a local favorite each year. Take a ride on a helicopter or airplane, watch air shows and parachute teams perform, ride the carnival rides and eat fair food for lunch before heading home.

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