06 October, 2010

Art Heritage

Manteo laps it's history up, where it exists it is exonerated, where it is vague the mystery and myth are celebrated and where it doesn't exist it is subtly added. Yet it has the vibrancy of a college town rather than the sterility of a heritage site.
Sunshine brings it alive, the first for 5 days put the last farmers market of the year in the shade of trees by the waterfront. There are no farmers in Dare County, except for the Island Farm, the oldest building on Roanoke Island dating from the 1850's and now a historical interpretation rather than a producing farm. The market is made up of artists and craftspeople, everything has to be handmade including bakery, coffee and lemonade. The work on sale has a regional, Outer Banks (OBX) flavour jewellery with shell motifs, concrete slabs embossed with starfish or in the shape of giant flip-flops decorated with genuine recycled Manteo glass fragments. We were attracted to the old hard-backed books that had been taken apart and reassembled with the addition of note making pages. And also to the work of Mike Tames who works in the antique business salvaging obscure items to make new art items; a similar process to Bideford's Rachel Sumner.

Warren had invited us to see him at the wonderful reproduction Elizabethan ship, the Elizabeth 2, made here in Manteo 20 years ago. The original 55 tonne ship of the 1585 voyage would never have docked in Manteo as the waters of the Roanoke Sound are too shallow for a ship of it's size. Smaller, partly assembled boats, were part of it's cargo and these took the 55 crew from the ocean to the Island. This ship is hugely popular and the 'flagship' of the Roanoke Island Festival Park, which also has an Indian Village based on John Whites drawings, and a recreation of the original settlement with historic costumed interpreters. There's an army of costumed interpreters in the summer but we learned plenty from the few that were left in October; the lone Scotsman manning the fort performed a fine blacksmithing demonstration and made Sadie a square sided nail.

One of the eye-catching, photogenic, enhancements of Manteo's waterfront is the 2008 reproduction lighthouse, based on one which used to stand on stilts in the marshland. This genius piece of town planning replaced the town's water treatment plant (I'd call it a sewerage works) with the most photographed building in Manteo.

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