Magic City Art Connection: Capturing Birmingham’s imagination and heart for 35 years

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Magic City Art Connection
Photo courtesy of Magic City Art Connection

More than thirty-five years ago, Eileen Kunzman, Magic City Art Connection’s founder, was a recent arrival to Birmingham looking for something special to do in her new hometown.

That was when she hatched the idea of the Magic City Art Connection.

This is how it all began according to Kunzman.

Picture of Magic City Art Connection founder Eileen Kunzman in 2000. Photo courtesy of Magic City Art Connection

“I grew up around the Three Rivers Art Festival in Pittsburgh. After moving to Birmingham in the early 1970’s, I missed that kind of creative energy anchored in a major city center. So that led to conversations with Operation New Birmingham at the time. With their support we just jumped in feet first and the rest is history!”

Magic City Art Connection, which will be held for its 35th Spring on April 27-29, has touched the lives of our community for more than a generation.

“Honestly, I loved the idea of giving artists a platform to connect with people and institutions who support their craft and careers. Also at the same time art festivals capture the community’s imagination, its heart. They make the city come alive,” added Kunzman.

Kevin Irwin. Photo courtesy of Magic City Art Connection

Artist Kevin Irwin was one of the first exhibitors. Over the years her work has expanded which mirrors how Magic City Art Connection has grown. Irwin started out with ceramics, moved on to glass art, metals, jewelry and then paintings and etchings.

“Like my own art, Magic City Art Connection has become so diverse; they have added so many things for people to do. They have doubled the number of artists since the earlier days. Then there is Corks and Chefs celebrating the art of food,” stated Irwin.

“You now can spend the whole day in the park, looking at the art, eating, drinking and listening to music. For the kids the Imagination Festival is really, really fun.”

This year, the festival is honoring women artists with a special exhibit titled, “Celebrated Women Artists: Movers and Shakers of the Alabama Art World.”

Renowned former gallery owner and artist Maralyn Wilson will be exhibiting a sculpture made from clay, found objects, and encaustic wax, which is painting with hot wax.

Sculpture by Marilyn Wilson. Photo courtesy of Magic City Art Connection

“This exhibit is brilliant. It is nice to include the community. It makes all of us who have been working in the art community in Birmingham feel special. I’m just thrilled to part of it,” said Wilson.

Kevin Irwin summed up how the artists, musicians, chefs, teachers, children and all the sponsors and the patrons feel about the Magic City Art Connection for the past 35 years.

“It is all about how she (Eileen) loved art and bringing us all together.”

On April 27-29 explore Magic City Art Connection’s 200 juried artists from around the country, Take in the food, wine, craft beer, spirits, and cocktails at the 21st Corks & Chefs tasting. Enjoy music and dance performances on 2 stages, kids art-making workshops, sculpture installations, and lingering with friends at one of the festival lounges or Park Place Café.

Magic City Art Connection
Alabama School Fine Arts, High School sculpture installation. Photo courtesy of Kevin Irwin.

Come alive and be a part of a Birmingham tradition.

For info visit MagicCityArt.com

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Author: Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.