“I was just thrilled because he made such an impression on me,” said Wells while showing the clipping to Jordan Poole, the executive director of Finster’s folk art Mecca called Paradise Gardens, located in Chattooga County.
Wells was touring the gardens Saturday along with Frank Morris during Finster Fest, a two-day art and music festival in Summerville that continues today from noon to 5 p.m.
Morris pointed to one of dozens of decorated ceiling tiles inside the building at Paradise Gardens that now serves as a small museum and gift shop and noted that he had painted it and signed his name to it 25 years ago. Finster encouraged others to help expand his art haven, he said.
“It’s amazing,” said Morris after first stepping onto the property. “This is history right here.”
Chattooga County purchased the gardens recently and a new foundation has taken control of the grounds. During several recent volunteer work days, Finster fans have cleaned up the property, landscaped, and set about organizing parts of the small park that had fallen into disrepair.
This weekend’s Finster Fest, said Poole, serves as the grand reopening of Paradise Gardens, and the event came with a steady stream of visitors to both the music and art festival at Dowdy Park and to the gardens several miles away (a shuttle was booked to provide rides from the park to the gar-dens both days of the event).
“It’s been interesting to see locals and all the license plates from across the country,” said Poole, noting how pleased he was that the event had such a wide draw. “I think the biggest thing is the art community has born witness to the value of this hidden gem, and you can see the artists here in full flock.”
Approximately 100 artists were on hand Saturday to offer their work, which included everything from paintings and sculptures to woodcarvings and screen-printing. The event also featured live music at both the festival and at Paradise Gardens, and multiple food options and children’s entertainment were offered at Dowdy Park, located on Highway 27 in Summerville. There is no cost for entrance to the festival or for the tours, but foundation memberships are available.
If You Go
What: Finster Fest
When: Noon to 5 p.m., today
Where: Dowdy Park and Paradise Gardens in Summerville