Eastern Shore Arts Center Celebrates 35 Years of Arts

Locals soak up Flat Third’s live music performance.

Story and Photos by Adolphus Ames —

ESO Arts Center held its annual ESO Fest Saturday, Sept. 11, to celebrate art and culture on the Eastern Shore. The festival lasted from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. and was the first ESO community gathering since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The feastival featured raffles, kids’ games, pottery demos, food and beverages from local venues such as Blackfin food truck and Mt. Nebo Meats, and live music by the Sonic Ukes, Chris English Band, Flat Third, and Loaded Goat.

A few local artists attended the event. Wilma Simpson showed off her handcrafted gourds, decoys, and animal paintings. Haley Moore sold digital paintings of bugs, seashells, and other artwork she created based on her nature observations. Jamie Kirkpatrick and Nancy Gormley gave ceramics demonstrations.

“It’s our biggest fundraiser of the year,” said Ashley Aigner Antunes, ESO executive director. “It marks the return of our year-round class schedule and live performance series.”

ESO offers a variety of classes. Moore is about to begin teaching embroidery and is considering offering another class on crepe art in the future. Gormely and Kirkpatrick offer beginner and intermediate level ceramics classes—Gormley on Wednesday from 1 to 4 p.m. and Kirkpatrick on Tuesdays and Fridays from noon to 3 p.m. There are also classes for individuals interested in martial arts, writing, guitar, painting, hip-hop and jazz dance, and ballet. 

Ballet draws the greatest number of young students. Lindsey Smith, a Broadwater senior, is entering her 15th year of ballet. “On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d rate my overall experience with ESO a 10,” she said. “Ballet is a form of emotional expression and it has shaped my sense of discipline. The confidence you gain from practicing is easily transferable to other parts of your life.”

Among ESO’s live performances is the “Nutcracker,” a production it has presented every December since 1991. This year, the performance will be held Dec. 17th weekend at Nandua High School.

ESO has two major goals. One is serving as a creative space. “We want to provide opportunities for artists,” said Antunes. “Here artists can practice, perform, and create their own work and programs with no limits.”

The other goal is to foster a love for the arts throughout the community. Rural communities like the Eastern Shore often lack access to the artistic networks and resources found in urban areas.

“We want to foster creativity, openness, and inclusivity,” said Tatum Ford, ESO board member. “I love seeing the world through fresh eyes and inspiring the next generation. When you nurture someone’s creativity you are also nurturing  their problem-solving skills and ability to face challenges.”

To learn more about ESO Art Center’s mission, classes, and upcoming events visit their website at https://www.esoartscenter.org  

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