Painters Prepare to Blow Your Mind on March 10

Practice Run for “4th Annual Paint-Off” public art extravaganza bodes well for 4th event

Click here for the associated Press Release pdf about the 4th Annual Paint-Off at ClearWater-

CONCORD – On Friday afternoon, Five master-portraitists came together from points across the Charlotte Metro and Concord area to paint a lovely model’s portrait, get to know each other, and get comfortable in the ClearWater Artist Studios Gallery.  The ultimate aim? To get ready to do it all over again in a week, only this time, with crowds of people watching, milling around and eating cake; another row of lively painters working behind them; and a live comedian hosting, calling times and making the audience laugh. The aim, in other words: To prepare to be the star attraction for one of the biggest events thrown for the public by ClearWater Artist Studios each year: the upcoming “Sun Drop Pound Cake Portrait Paint-Off Extravaganza!”

This year marks the 4th for this annual event, which will be held Saturday, March 10th from 3-6pm.  It’s free and open to the public and is always a crowd-pleaser.  Art studios throughout the building will be open starting at Noon, with resident artists present; and the Southern Piedmont Woodturners Association, a tenant at ClearWater Artist Studios, will hold wood-turning demonstrations in their studio throughout the afternoon.

This year’s ‘Featured Painters’ are Felicia van Bork, Arthur Rogers, Todd Baxter, Martha Manco, and ‘Emerging Artist,’ Tucker Fraetis, age 19. Additional space to paint at the event, in the ‘2nd row,’ is granted to local painters on a 1st-come/ 1st served basis (interested painters are asked to email Manager Sarah Gay; see contact info below). During model breaks, artists are called upon to do ‘5-minute Portraits’ of an audience volunteer—and those portraits may be sold on the spot for just $40.  In the Gallery will be the Portraiture Exhibition: Paintings by the Featured Painters. This exhibit will be on view in the ClearWater Gallery from March10 through April 6. See website and social media for Gallery hours.

The exciting event is billed as a “spectator-sport” type event, for art. It allows the lay public to get a chance to watch some of the area’s most accomplished painters work their magic; and, it allows area artists, many of whom typically labor in isolation, a cheerful social event in which to work their craft and see how other painters do it.  “It’s always a good time,” said Sarah Gay, Manager of ClearWater Artist Studios, who co-produces the event with the resident Artists Coalition each year.  “I think one of the reasons it remains so popular—(each year the crowd has numbered over 175) – is that people who aren’t artists sometimes view the creative process as almost like doing magic; it’s getting a ‘look behind the curtain.’ And artists, for their part, don’t often get a chance to be around lots of fellow artists as they work against the clock.”  Plus, there’s cake.

Refreshments—for which only a donation is asked-- will include fresh Sun Drop Pound Cakes, baked from scratch by The Sweet Life bakery in downtown Concord; homemade chips and salsa, courtesy of 2 Gals Kitchen in Concord; and Sun Drop soda. Cheerwine, last year agreed to keep up the annual donation of Sun Drop soda for the event, as the former Concord-born company had done. Members of Concord’s Youth Council will once again assist as event volunteers, alongside neighborhood volunteers and resident artists.

Community spirit is abundant: The Sweet Life Bakery gives a discount on the cakes, 2Gals donates their chips, and three prominent purveyors of food and spirits – Cougar Run Winery, Southern Grace Distillery, and S&D Coffee & Tea—donate generous gift baskets, which are auctioned and raffled off to raise money to offset the cost of the event. As co-producers, it is the Artists Coalition dues –collectively from each tenant artist-- that underwrite the costs of hiring the model and Emcee, and paying for the cakes. The City pitches in by allowing the Manager, a city employee, to handle coordination and promotions. 

“We wanted to showcase the area’s artists, since North Carolina is one of the nation’s leading markets for commissioned portraiture; and, do something for the community that is fun,” said Walter Stanford, the resident artist who co-conceived the event with Gay back in 2014.  Stanford, as a resident artist and President of the ClearWater Artists Coalition from 2014-2017 (now Vice-President), helps annually with coordination. The Current President of the Coalition is Gordon C. James, whose paintings are currently on display at the Cabarrus Arts Council Galleries and whose children’s book illustrations in 2017 have earned him five major book and illustration awards recently. Last year, James and resident artist Barbara Ellis were two of the Featured Painters in the event.

Then, there is the other performance going on in the room: the EmCee. This year the Emcee will be Charlotte comedian and native, NuffCed, who bills himself as “The Ultimate Host.” He will provide auditory entertainment; introducing the artists to the audience, calling times, and, he promised, composing improvised poetry on the spot using words from the audience. NuffCed too is giving a discount, declaring, after visiting ClearWater Artist Studios: “I want to help this effort – I’m a creative person, did some art when I was a kid; and seeing what’s happening here-- this is really great.”

Details and continual updates, with photos, are provided on the Facebook Event Page, at Additionally there is an page, at which guests can RSVP.  Gay says this can help direct how much cake to buy.

ClearWater Artist Studios hopes the public will attend this free, family-friendly and colorful event. Any/ all proceeds go first to reimbursing the Artists Coalition for event costs; and then, into operations of ClearWater Artist Studios. Free parking is available in several lots around the ClearWater campus.

LOCATION: 223 Crowell Drive NW, Concord, NC 28025.  For details and more info, including a campus-area map, see  Spaces at ClearWater are available to rent for private events.

For more information contact: Sarah Gay, Manager of ClearWater Artist Studios for the City of Concord; 704-784-9535 or