While Sanford may be enjoying something of an artistic renaissance, from the public arts initiative that’s given us a fantastic mural program to a Temple Theatre that’s consistently offering some of the best entertainment around, one organization has been quietly cranking out amazing work by local talent for more than half a century now.

Sanford’s Brush & Palette Club is one of the oldest art organizations in North Carolina, and with more than 100 members in 2018, it’s got to be one of the strongest, particularly in a county of just around 60,000 people.

“It started as a group of friends who got together and painted in their kitchens,” said club president Gael Hogan. “We’ve worked hard over the years to maintain the intimacy and the friendship that this club grew out of.”

Painting by Alice Heins

That kind of camaraderie is evident when talking to Hogan or any other of the club’s membership, who describe membership benefits like collaborative “cross training,” in which members are exposed to new techniques and media in order to broaden the scope of their work, as well as partnerships with Lee County Schools, including the so-called “Art Angels” program and scholarships for seniors at the county’s high schools.

But the organization’s primary focus is its annual Art Show, the 54th such event, set for Saturday Oct. 20 through Saturday, Oct. 27 at the Bob Hales Recreation Center at 147 McIver St. in Sanford. Featuring more than 1,000 unique pieces of work – ranging from paintings to sculptures and more – from 67 artists, Hogan says the show “offers something for everyone.”

Admission is free.

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There are also some new features this year.

“The configuration is going to be more gallery-like with a central area where people can see the art, whereas in the past it was more row-like,” Hogan said. “I also felt like part of the tradition of this area is in clay art, and when I became president I felt it was important to honor this type of art.”

Dragonfly sculpture by Chris Dalton

The work that goes into the week-long show is more than substantial. Organizers began the process of putting together the layout and checking in artists on Tuesday. On Wednesday they meticulously organized and hung the various pieces of art, and on Thursday judges came in to evaluate the work and award prizes. Then, there’s an awards reception Friday with a proclamation from Sanford Mayor Chet Mann before the show opens to the public on Saturday (the show runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20, 1 to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 21, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 22 to Friday, Oct. 26, and again from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 27).

Most of the artwork is available for sale as well, although competition pieces cannot be taken home until the show is over (non-competition pieces can be bought and taken home at any time).

Additionally, there will be opportunities to donate to the aforementioned Art Angels program – all proceeds go directly to art teachers in Lee County. Hogan said art education is something she’s particularly passionate about because of its ability to unlock the artist in everyone.

“15 years ago I wasn’t an artist, and I was at an event where I was watching a guy painting with his fingers,” she said. “So I became a finger painter. If my life could change that drastically just from seeing someone doing art – 15 years later, I’m the president of the Brush & Palette Club – who else is out there waiting?”

Individual memberships to the Brush & Palette Club are available to anyone living or working in Lee County, or with a Sanford or Broadway address, for $45 per year. Any art teacher in Lee County may join for free. For more information about the Brush & Palette Club, visit the organization’s Facebook page, or the event page for the Art Show.

Below, view just a few of the pieces that will be on display: