Dixie Dugan remembers a simpler time for artists in Myrtle Beach.
Picture this — rows of cars fill the sidewalks of Chapin Park, just a few blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. Watercolor artists, woodworkers and oil painters line the sides of their vehicles with art pieces of their own. It’s the early 1970s, and the city has agreed to put on the first “Art in the Park,” an event for artists up and down the coastline to sell their work to tourists and passersby.
This year, the event will be held at Valor Memorial Park in Market Common Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Admission is free.
Dugan, now 94, remembers trading with other creators during the event years ago, including basket weavers from Charleston when she started Art in the Park about 50 years ago.
“Those basket ladies were hard to trade with,” she laughed. “They knew their baskets were valuable. But I wanted them to know they were getting one of a kind.”
Dugan’s pieces, which she meticulously numbered, are one of a kind. After beginning her local art career with classes under influential gouache and charcoal artist Alex Powers, she began working with Japanese paper, $10 a piece back then, to create intricate “origami paper paintings.” She has sold 3,046 pieces to date.
JoAnne Utterback, who took over as director in 2003, said Dugan’s work is recognizable to the older generation of Myrtle Beach locals. Her work can be seen in doctor’s offices, residential homes and in a few different galleries.
Her work has been featured in numerous exhibitions, and can still be seen at the Franklin G. Burroughs Art Museum as part of the Waccamaw Art & Crafts Guild collection. Elizabeth Miller, a curator for the art museum, has worked with Dugan several times, including in 2014 for a solo exhibition.
“Her pieces are so dynamic,” Miller said. “If you own one of her pieces, you can always find something new.”
Her work has also been featured in past exhibitions at the Waterfront gallery in Charleston.
Dugan doesn’t create a lot of art anymore at her age. But her home studio is filled with materials, pieces from her friends in the field, and her own work that she’s accumulated her entire life. Above her studio window sits a row of ribbon awards from various years of being an active artist in the Myrtle Beach area.
Today, more than 70 artists will be featured at this years Art in the Park, which will celebrate 50 years of the Waccamaw Arts and Crafts guild.
Utterback, the new director of the Waccamaw Arts and Craft’s guild said the 50th anniversary is significant for two things. One is because what Myrtle Beach lacks in artistic culture, makes up for in population growth. New residents need art for their homes, Utterback said.
“It is because of the blank walls, naked yards, and so much is necessary,” Utterback said. “They need things for their walls. We call it yard art.”
The other reason is that is signifies a reputation for being consistent, both with artists and with the City of Myrtle Beach.
“People expect us to do it,” Utterback said.
The Waccamaw Arts and Crafts guild was founded in 1969 by Dugan and other artists to “promote and encourage the arts in the greater Grand Strand community,” its website says. The guild offers free monthly workshops and mini meetings, many of which were headed by Dugan herself.