Student art show to open at Cochran Gallery on Friday as part of LIFE Festival

Published 8:56 pm Thursday, September 5, 2019

With the LaGrange International Friendship Exchange Festival on the horizon, students gathered at the Cochran Gallery on Wednesday afternoon to prepare for the student art show that kicks off the festival each year. 

This year sculptures and drawings from area high school students and local Korean children will be displayed prominently in the downtown gallery, with the show opening on Friday at 5 p.m. Organizers say that the festival is an opportunity to bring the community together, especially LaGrange residents originally from other countries.

“I like this concept about an international festival,” said Eunmi Kim McVay, who taught the Korean art class. “Art is universal.”

McVay said that her students generally enjoy school, but they sometimes tell her that they feel lonely in a new culture. Nancy Olney, an event organizer, said the festival hopes to bring those feeling alone together, so that they don’t feel like they are on their own.

The high school art show will open on Friday at 5 p.m. and will continue through 7 p.m., with the awards presentation at 6 p.m. Art by students from LaGrange High School, Troup High School, Callaway High School, LaGrange Academy and Harris County High School will be featured in the show.

The LIFE Festival itself will take place on Main Street in downtown LaGrange on Saturday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. This year, 21 countries will be represented at the festival, and attendees from near and far will be able to sample food, enjoy shows and learn about the families from around the world who have made Troup County their home.

“It is very much a community, and the children are a part of that community,” Olney said. “People fear what they do not know, and once they realize everybody is like themselves, the fear goes down.”

The event will include activities for those young and old, and activities including a Taekwondo demonstration, dancing and a piñata are expected to be especially appealing to younger festival goers. A “passport” will also be available for children to take to each booth and ask for the capital city of each country.

The festival typically draws in visitors from throughout the state.

“We do this for our international community, and for the wonderful people of LaGrange and Troup County,” Olney said. “We have visitors coming from Athens, Georgia, Newnan, Columbus and Alabama coming in. We have people coming from Macon to this.”

Now in its fourth year, the LIFE Festival has seen attendance grow as it has gained notoriety. 

“Last year, we had over 3,000 visitors, and we hope to at least make that [number of visitors] if not more this year,” Olney said. “We are also one of the few communities that does this type of event.”

The event will also give participants a chance to give back. LaGrange College students plan to take up donations for people in the Bahamas impacted by Hurricane Dorian during the festival.

“One of the international students at the college is going to be here with some others to help collect items that they will need — diapers, towels, wash cloths, clothes, anything,” Olney said. 

Olney thanked local student volunteers, especially the Troup High School students, who will be painting faces, and members of the Callaway High School ROTC, who are helping with set up and cleanup.

On Sunday, the annual Peace Concert will close out the weekend at Callaway Auditorium. The free concert remembers 9/11 and begins at 7 p.m.

“We’re one of the few places that still does the 9/11 concert,” Olney said.

All LIFE festival events are free to the public.