As Chatham Park continues to develop its community, they remain dedicated to supporting local art in Chatham County. As part of that commitment, Chatham Park is powering our Go See This series. They join us in inviting you to Go See This . . .
If you’re looking for something fun to take the whole family to as summer winds down, look no further than Come Out and Play. This annual outdoor sculpture exhibit is hosted by Debbie Meyer and her husband Eric Brantley on their 17-acre farm called JimGin Farm, named after Debbie’s parents, Jim and Ginger Meyer. This year’s event begins with an opening party on August 27 and 28, noon until dark, and continues with receptions each Saturday in September, from 2 p.m. until dark.
Now in its 21st year, the show has evolved from featuring 10 artists with one reception in the first year into a large event with nearly 70 artists showing their work. The idea for the show was born in 2002. As Debbie notes, “This show started in 2002 as part of a community-wide call for artists to honor those affected by 9/11 on the first anniversary. The artwork was to have some relation to flowers. Some people wanted to show sculpture, and since there was no venue to do so (we had venues all over the community to hang art to show), I agreed to do it on our farm.” Debbie and four other women—Jackie Helvey, Hollie Taylor, Anke Gassen, and Hunter Levinsohn—were the driving force in charge of the community-wide art show, and all of them are still involved in putting on the event, including creating art for the show, providing the website design creation and upkeep, designing the invitation, and marketing the whole shebang.
Debbie has a long history as an artist. “I was raised on art by my parents and went to an arts high school where my love of it, particularly sculpture, really took hold,” she says. “Hosting this show was a way to be involved more closely in something I loved. Two friends who came to that first reception in 2002 told me that being at the show helped them heal after the year of reeling from 9/11. One of my high school classmates, Frank Doyle, died that day in the towers, and while this was not my impetus for founding the show, I certainly think of him and hope it honors him and the others in a profound way. One of the artists and a few of the attendees during that first event asked if I would continue the show, so off we went.”
The only year that was different was 2020. “When the pandemic began, we decided to go virtual for the 2020 event,” says Debbie. “My friend and web designer, Jackie Helvey, put everything online. It was a gorgeous presentation. I cheated a bit though and did a real installation on the farm, and people were able to email me and make a reservation to come out. I made a labyrinth of metal panels that led to a place to sit and write ‘a letter to the world.’ The letters were there for all to read. It was another way to connect people.”
Along with expanding the number of artists and receptions as the years went on, the event now has live music, thanks to Debbie’s relationship with the North Carolina Songwriters Co-op. As Debbie recalls, “A few years into the show, one of the founders of the North Carolina Songwriters Co-op approached me and said we needed music at the show, and he would help provide it for me. Initially, I said no, because I didn’t want to distract from the art or have people compete to be heard over the music, but he was persistent, so I said I would try it. I think that was about 15 years ago, and that person, Kirk Ridge, will be one of the musicians who will play on the first Sunday.”
Debbie makes a point of seeking out new sculptors each year, and this year a number of Chatham County artists will show their work:
- Regina Bridgman
- Ralph Coomer
- Andrew Dixon
- Mark Elliott
- Forrest Greenslade
- Sophie Joy
- Lee Kazanas
- Kevin Kuhnel
- Luther “The Birdman”
- John Makowski
- William Moore
- Roger Person
- Hamidou Sissoko
One of the things that makes this event special for Debbie is the involvement of her parents, who fly down to North Carolina each year from Chicago to attend the event. “My parents have been huge financial supporters, helping me and my husband pay for the food and drink and also buying art to send back to Chicago as gifts for family and friends there,” says Debbie. “Each year they try to find something they love, buy it, and leave it on our property as a present. So even though they aren’t local, they’ve helped our local art scene. They’ve taught me that it’s important to give back to the community, and I take that very seriously.”
The event is completely free, for both artists and participants, and includes food and drink. The artists, who have to be invited to be in the show, pay nothing and get to keep all proceeds. (All that’s asked in return is that the artists bring a side dish if they attend a reception!)
So pick a date, bring the kids (and the dogs, who are also welcome!), and support this fantastic annual event! Get in touch with the host (firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-357-6142) if you have any questions about attending. Everyone is welcome!
PS: Twenty-one years represents some astonishing longevity for an arts event. If you want a snapshot in writing of Come Out and Play just seven years ago, take a look at our 2015 Go See This.
- When: The opening parties are on August 27 and 28, noon until dark; the event continues with receptions each Saturday in September, from 2 p.m. until dark
- Where: JimGin Farm at 150 Wild Horse Run, Pittsboro, NC 27312
- Cost: Free
- Parking: Come down Wild Horse Run, go through the wood gates, and park on the right lawn
- For More Info: Visit the Come Out and Play website or contact Debbie (919-357-6142 or email@example.com)
- Accessibility: Accessible parking and grounds
All photos by Jackie Helvey