Scarecrow Wedding

Art often takes you to the wild edges of experience, those marshy, unvisited areas of your thought and perception. If you don’t know where your edges are, then step into the presence of art, and you can often quickly locate them. Art challenges and it confronts. It questions and confirms. It can make you feel lost and it can also make you feel like you’ve never left home. Sometimes art is an experience you don’t understand and others, it’s so familiar you understand it immediately.

All this said, we went to an outdoor wedding in Spartanburg on Saturday. Over 100 people came out to the Spartanburg Area Conservancy’s Cottonwood Trail and walked the boardwalk into the wetlands to eat cake and drink champagne and marvel at 40 scarecrows stationary in the winter marsh.

All the activity didn’t seem to affect the wildlife. A great blue heron hunted on the far margin of the wetlands the whole afternoon, ignoring the party in the neighborhood.

The scarecrows, the creation of Hub-Bub artists-in-residence Brian Hitselberger and Leah Brown, are life-sized, dressed in used clothing. They are perched on 2X4 frames made of donated and recycled wood. They have heads made of bundled straw. There are straw babies in their mother’s arms, preteen scarecrows, scarecrow couples with their arms around each other, a big fat one in a red flannel shirt leaning against a tree, even a preacher in a black smock. The bride is stunning, dressed in full white wedding gown. The wind flips her veil around and her sheer white visage is reflected in the standing water.

People laughed, visited, and checked out the wedding from several different angles. Leah’s dad and brother played old-time music. Somebody said that maybe next year we’d have a scarecrow divorce with straw lawyers and a judge in the muck.

This outdoor sculpture installation will be up for a month, so if you missed the reception then you can still wander out to SPACE’s eastside preserve and visit with the scarecrows on your lunch break. It is like nothing else you’ll see this year. Be sure not to miss it.  It’s a different wedding every day as the light changes and the wind blows. Look for the heron or the woodpeckers, or the ducks and geese.

The scarecrow wedding is the latest in a year’s long sweet storm of creativity brought to our community by the Hub-Bub artists. Visual artists Brain and Leah are currently the public face to this unique community project, but the work of Justin Plakas (filmmaker) and Emily Smith (poet) have often been on display as well during the eight-month tenure downtown of the Live Free and Create arts colony.

These four young artists have challenged how Spartanburg looks at art. Justin’s short films are like nothing you’d see in the local cinema, and Emily’s poetry brings her trained eye to bear on her varied experience as a young artist.

Several years ago when I was part of the original team that discussed the Hub City Writers Project establishing an arts residency program here, I never imagined how four artists and the art they make could create such a difference in a year.

Art is as important for a community as it is for individuals. It’s something we should continue to support with our tax dollars and our private contributions. We should hire artists to make us things and not question their vision. We should teach our children to make art and to look at it, or listen to it, and feel secure in its challenging presence.

A wedding of scarecrows brings something of economic importance to Spartanburg, even though there are no concession stands on the Cottonwood Trail, and even though Brian and Leah will not sell their creation to the highest bidder at the end of the month. It’s art in its purest form created for the sheer joy of creation.  In that way it makes us a more interesting place to live.

Sure, unemployment reports are important to watch, but isn’t it also important to celebrate the creativity index of a community? If Saturday’s scarecrow wedding is any indication, then Spartanburg’s index is rising. Art is booming in unlikely places around the Hub City.

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