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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.

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

The 5 Best Mountain Bike Trails Around Augusta

This blog is a repost from SingleTracks.com/Blog and was written by DGaddis. To see the original blog post, click here.

I’m proud to call the the Central Savannah River Area, or CSRA, my home.  The CSRA is the the area surrounding Augusta, GA and North Augusta, SC and it’s home to some of the best, least-expected mountain biking in the southeast.  I say least expected because we don’t have any mountains here.  We’ve got hills, but no mountains.  But boy oh boy do we have trails, about 150 miles of them actually, with more in the works.  We have many of these trails because of the local MTB club, SORBA-CSRA.  SORBA-CSRA has done such a good job in this area that in 2010 IMBAheld their biannual World Summit here.  So if you’re looking for a place to take a spring MTB trip, give the CSRA a look.  In this blog post you’ll find my five favorite trails in the area, in no particular order.

FATS: Forks Area Trail System (SC)

FATS, located in the Sumter National Forest in South Carolina, is the crown jewel of the CSRA mountain bike scene, and the only IMBA Epic in South Carolina.  It’s 37 miles of fast, swoopy, roller coaster like purpose built mountain bike trails.  There are six individual loops, each with a slightly different feel and the trails will satisfy both beginners and experienced riders alike.  There is very little technical terrain at FATS so anyone can ride here and likely clean every inch of trail.  What makes this trail fun is the speed – it’s easy to get, and easy to keep.  But you do have to be careful with all that speed: there’s a bunch whoop-de-doos that will throw you over the handlebars if you’re not careful.


Riders cruising through some whoop-de-doos on the Deep Step loop at FATS

Mistletoe State Park (GA)

Mistletoe is the anti-FATS.  It’s the most technical trail in the CSRA.  The trail was not built for mountain biking, even though bikes are allowed now.  There are lots of creek crossings – some are easy, some are not.  There’s some rocks, and some steep climbs.  The trails can be a little confusing your first time out so I suggest looking for a local to show you around.  The Rock Dam and Cliatt Creek Nature Trail are the most popular rides, and most locals link them together to form a loop around 6.5 miles long, with a lot of climbing for this area.  Mistletoe is the western most portion of the big Thurmond Epic route.


One of the deeper creek crossings at Mistletoe State Park

Modoc (aka Stevens Creek) (SC)

Modoc is another technical trail, for the CSRA at least.  Located in Sumter National Forest, the Modoc trail roughly follows Steven’s Creek and has some nice scenic views.  Several ditch and creek crossings keep you on your toes on this 6-mile out and back trail.  Between the technical bits Modoc is pretty fast and smooth.  There is plenty of really nice bench cut singletrack that has been in place for decades and it’s a lot of fun to ride.  Locals link Modoc to the Turkey and Wine Creek trails for longer routes.


Only 1/4 mile from the parking lot is one of Modoc’s most memorable creek crossings.  Photo: brianW

Bartram (GA)

The Bartram trail is one of the least technical trails in the area, but it’s also one of the longest.  The trail is an out and back stretching from the West Dam Recreational Area west all the way to Washington Road, and it’s 22.5 miles one way!  The trail runs right through the Petersburg Campground, making Petersburg a great place to stay if you’re planning a visit to the CSRA to ride.

East of Petersburg is known as “old Bartram” to the locals and it is the least challenging side.  It is very flat, smooth, and very fast if you want it to be; a great place to take the kids riding.  West of Petersburg, or “new Bartram” is a little tougher, with some climbing, whoop-de-doos, and a few technical challenges.  The entire trail hugs the shores of Lake Thurmond and has lots of nice views.  Bartram is the biggest chunk of the Thurmond Epic route.


There’s something special about lakeside singletrack.  Photo: brianW

Canal Trail (GA)

This is probably going to a controversial pick as a Top Five trail but hey, it’s my list and I love thecanal trail!  It’s a very short 2.8 mile loop inside the city limits of Augusta.  This is the only trail in the area that’s within easy riding distance from a large population area.  It sits on a small piece of land between the Savannah River and the Augusta Canal.  To make the best use of the land the trail is very tight and twisty, making it a great place to work on your cornering skills.  There aren’t any big climbs, but there are a few short steep rooty grunts that can test your skills.  It’s a little trail, but it is big on fun!


That’s me, playing hookie from work and enjoying the canal trail on a sunny Friday afternoon in the spring.  Don’t tell my boss.

This blog is a repost from SingleTracks.com/Blog and was written by DGaddis. To see the original blog post, click here.

5 Free Things to Do This Weekend in Augusta

Christmas Tree Lighting (Photo Courtesy of the Augusta Chronicle)

1. December 6th is First Friday: Oh what fun it is to play downtown on First Friday! Check out our First Friday faves here.

2. December 7th is the Bank of America Holiday Open House: Get free admission into the Morris Museum of Art, Augusta Museum of History, Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History, Boyhood Home of President Woodrow Wilson and Arts & Heritage Center of North Augusta. In addition to free admission, there will be holiday decorations, crafts and games!

3. December 7th is Swamp Saturday: Take a guided tour of Phinizy Swamp Nature Park. Get a glimpse of birds and other wildlife and enjoy the last of the fall foliage.

4. December 7th is Christmas for the Birds: Bring your family to the Living History Park and create edible Christmas decorations for the birds!

5. December 7th is Augusta’s Christmas Extravaganza: Shop at the Holiday Market, enjoy the Fantasy Parade, listen to the 12 Bands of Christmas and stay for the lighting of the Christmas Tree and fireworks show! Get details for each event’s time and location on our calendar of events.

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