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Find showcase of local art by the river Saturday

ROD GUAJARDO/The Natchez Democrat — Carolyn Weir bends a piece of stainless steel wire to create one of her kinetic mobile sculptures. The sculptures include her original watercolor paintings, which hang on different ends of the wire that balance perfectly when hung. Weir is one artist who will have work on display Saturday at Art on the Bluff.

Deborah McNeal played a lot of games during the glory days of her youth in Natchez.

One of her simplest pastimes was running around the yard with chickens chasing after her.

That memory surfaced as inspiration for a folk-art painting, and soon after, McNeal, who has no formal art training and learned to paint reading books and watching Bob Ross on TV, had a painting of a chicken chasing after a child.

“I had a good childhood, and that’s what inspires me,” McNeal said. “I paint days gone by. It’s easy to paint things that represent my childhood.”

ROD GUAJARDO/The Natchez Democrat — Deborah McNeal carefully selects which color paint she chooses to add to one of her paintings, “Road to Glory,” at the Arts Natchez studio.

McNeal said anything can serve as inspiration, and this Saturday she hopes to help the people of Natchez find what inspires them at the first Art on the Bluff Project.

McNeal will be one of a handful of local artists who will display their works on the bluff from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The event is designed to showcase the work of Miss-Lou artists and also get the community involved in the arts, event organizer Marbeth Schon said.

“It’s going to take a while to get going, and we only have three or four artists guaranteed to be there this time, but it’s growing,” Schon said. “Within a year, it will become something people will look forward to.”

The event is hosted by the Natchez Downtown Development Association and will be the second Saturday of each month. It will precede the Second Saturday business open houses downtown.

McNeal said she is working on several new projects for this weekend, including one titled “Road to Glory” that she is painting on an old wooden ironing board.

“(This event) is wonderful. I’m very excited,” she said. “It will help because a whole lot of people can come see what I’ve done.”

Art on the Bluff will also feature demonstrations by local artists that will teach different artistic techniques to the community. Local artist Carolyn Weir said that is the aspect of the event that excites her the most.

“For me, this event is about 80 percent educating the public and giving them the opportunity to sit down and do (art) or watch someone else paint.”

Weir is also an organizer for the event, and she said she has two goals for each second Saturday.

“We want to generate out-of-town interest in Natchez,” she said. “And we want to promote the arts in Natchez, by saying, ‘Look what art I’ve done.’”

Weir said she hopes for something more than just local artists showing off their work and making sales.

LAUREN WOOD/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Salongo Lee works on a mixed media piece in his home studio Monday afternoon.

“We want to give out easels and give demonstrations,” she said. “We will have local musicians doing a jam session. We want the public to interact with the artists and eventually have workshops.”

Weir will show her work Saturday, but will also give a demonstration on large kinetic mobile sculpture assembly, she said.

Weir said she hopes there will be activities for children as well.

The event is modeled after the idea of the Art Market in Baton Rouge, but Weir hopes it ends up looking more like Jackson Square in New Orleans — without the Tarot cards, she said.

Sálongo Lee is another local artist coming to Saturday’s showcase, and he said he is excited about what the event is capable of doing for the art community.

“I think it’s a good thing to do,” he said. “I think it’s going to help bring more people downtown and give artists more exposure, which we need. It’s something that’s needed and hopefully it’s successful.”

Lee said he looks forward to interacting with other artists in the area.

“Artists tend to work very isolated in their own caves and studios,” he said. “We don’t get out much, and this gives us a chance to network and pick up new ideas and techniques.”

The event will also allow beginning artists, like Kamaria Parker, to get their feet in the door.

“This gives me a chance to show off and gives me a lot of publicity,” Parker said. “I am just getting started with my art career. I am looking forward to it. I’ve never done this before.”

Although Saturday’s first Art on the Bluff will bring only local artists, Schon hopes it grows to include artists from across the Southeast.

“I’d like to see a regional artists set up and get as many as we can get,” she said.

Schon said she has the Natchez High School band scheduled to play Christmas carols the second Saturday in December.

Art on the Bluff will be free to the public.