Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 32

'A champion of artists'
Finster Fest celebrates Southern folk art, legendary founder
BY LAURA RAINES

ART BY HOWARD FINSTER / PHOTO COURTESY PETER LOOSE

32

LAURA RAINES

O

n Memorial Day weekend, artists, musicians and folkart lovers will gather again at Paradise Garden in Summerville for Finster Fest, a celebration of the life and
legacy of Howard Finster (1916-2001). Finster would welcome all comers.
The garden with his visionary art, prophetic words
and whimsical structures was his way to get his messages out to the world. "Someday, sometime, people on
this planet are going to realize they need what Howard
Finster's got, whether it's religion, whether it's art or
whether it's building a garden," he said.
Thanks to the ongoing
restoration by the Paradise
Garden Foundation, the
garden he built in Northwest Georgia is still reaching people, and the festival
that Finster started in 1991
is still attracting top-notch
regional talent.
Finster
was
many
things in his lifetime: Baptist
preacher, builder, bicycle
repairman, recycler, gardener and artist. He's been
called a man of visions, the
Andy Warhol of the South
and the grandfather of
Southern folk art.
"He was an empowering kind of mentor and
tremendous art supporter,"
says Howard Pousner, vice president of the Paradise Garden Foundation and curator of the festival. "Artists are
proud to come. The shadow that he still casts on the folkart world is huge.
"People's joy in the garden is palpable. The Howard
vibe is still here. I can see him looking down from heaven
on the garden he created, seeing hundreds of people visiting again and smiling."
About 50 mostly self-taught folk artists from eight
states are expected to show their paintings, sculpture,
pottery, textiles and furniture at the fest. In the past, renowned artists Missionary Mary Proctor, Deb "Miz Thang"
Garner, Jim Shores, Peter Loose, and C.M. and Grace Kelly
Laster have come.
"The garden was always a mecca for artists. [Finster]

Top: Donnie Davis, an artist from Summerville, describes
this oversized Coke bottle in the Paradise Garden visitors
center as a tribute to Howard Finster on what would
have been his 100th birthday in 2016. The bottle features
100 floating photos of Finster, and well-wishers were
encouraged to put birthday greetings inside. "People still
leave him a note occasionally," Davis says. Left: Howard
Finster's paintings were the epitome of Southern folk art and often
bore messages he wished to convey to the world.

attracted all kinds and ages of people," says Janet Byington, former president and founding member of the nonprofit Paradise Garden Foundation.
Born and raised in Summerville, she recalls Finster repairing her bicycle and having a heart for helping people.
"It's remarkable that he took a plot of marshy land
and turned it into something internationally known. Many
consider it sacred ground," Byington says. "When you go
to the garden, you walk away with the feeling that you
could do that. It makes you want to go home and create
something. There is so much inspiration there."
The foundation has raised $940,000 to date in gifts

More online at www.georgiamagazine.org

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - April 2018

Contents
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - Intro
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - Cover1
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - Cover2
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 3
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - Contents
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 5
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 6
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 7
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 8
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 9
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