As it does every year in early December, Raleigh’s Boylan Heights neighborhood will transform into a bustling, sprawling artists’ showcase. More than 100 local artists and craftspeople will sell their wares on porches and sidewalks, and in front yards during the 26th Annual Boylan Heights ArtWalk, an all-volunteer event that has become a neighborhood tradition.
“One of the key elements of the event is homeowners willing to open their homes and lawns to artists,” says Lyman Collins, the Boylan Heights ArtWalk chair. “It’s known for having an eclectic and high-quality feel. There are artists who live in the neighborhood as well, so it’s a nice mix.”
For some homeowners and artists, their pairing is more than a onetime event.
“I moved into this neighborhood in 1988, and about that same time, someone gave me a piece of Nancy Redman pottery as a gift,” says Cheryl Proctor, who later asked to be paired with Redman for the ArtWalk because she loved her work. “My house is full of Nancy Redman pottery and I admire her a great deal.”
Their pairing has lasted almost 20 years and has since developed into a close friendship. Proctor even invites Redman and her daughter, Kathleen, whom Redman says was “raised in clay,” into her home for dinner every year after the event ends.
Redman is usually the only artist Proctor hosts, setting up her work on her front porch and driveway. For Proctor, she doesn’t even need a phone call from Redman to know that she’s going to show up.
“It’s sort of a given that we’re going to do this,” says Proctor. “It’s part of the fabric of our neighborhood. It is such a part of the community of Boylan Heights, and of Raleigh itself.”
Redman, whose interest in clay began in 1965, loves the ambiance of the Boylan Heights neighborhood, the festive nature of the day, and the laid back vibe of only selling for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon.
“It’s close to home, it’s only a half day, and it takes place before Christmas,” says Redman. “It’s not like setting up for a three day event.”
This year’s event has generated the highest number of applications since the ArtWalk began, transforming the task of placing the participating artists into a sort of puzzle.
“We look at the kind of space the homeowners have, such as a porch or yard, and match the artists,” says Collins. “If the artist has been at a particular location before, it’s easiest to match them. Some homeowners are incredibly gracious and go out of their way to make the artists feel welcome.”
Approximately 40 houses in the neighborhood will host artists this year, including Montfort Hall, the 1858 mansion that sits at the peak of Boylan Heights. A young couple, who want to turn it into a boutique hotel, recently purchased Montfort Hall for $1.1 million. Six artists will exhibit their works on its grounds.
“It’s kind of mind-boggling how much the event has grown,” says Redman, who has developed a following of art lovers who come every year to see her. “It advertises the neighborhood in a nice way and allows people to appreciate the historic area. It’s a lot of fun and I think people really celebrate.”
Check out the 26th Annual Boylan Heights ArtWalk on December 2 from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free.