Nothing can stop another new year from slithering in as the snake takes its turn on the Chinese calendar.
The Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum in Myrtle Beach will have a “Free Family Day” 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, celebrating Chinese New Year – The Year of the Snake.
Patricia Goodwin, the museum’s executive director, said this event usually marks the museum’s first community shindig each year, but the museum’s 15th anniversary birthday party commanded the focus in 2012.
“It was certainly missed by the community at large,” she said, thrilled to resume the annual Chinese New Year this weekend. “We got more calls about that.”
Anyway, she said this new year’s affair marks at least its 10th time at the museum, and that about 30 to 40 people, including museum staff, educators and volunteers and other artisans, team up to coordinate a day that begins with a traditional dragon parade and lion dance and includes an array of cultural activities such as storytelling, dancing, games, lectures, demonstrations and family art workshops.
Myrtle Beach’s Chapin Memorial Library also will set up a Chinese literature table, Goodwin said.
Reunion of sorts
Besides the local residents and vacationers who turn out for Chinese New Year, Goodwin said the day remains a tradition, even a reunion of sorts, for participants.
“Several of these folks we have working with us for at least the past eight years,” she said. “The Mint Hill Kung Fu School from Charlotte, they’ve been coming in for nine or 10 years. ... Everybody looks forward to seeing one another again.”
Another regular presence at the event comes from another group from Charlotte, the Little Lotus Dance Troupe, with members ages 5 to 17. Goodwin said its contingent, all of Chinese heritage, will present some new dances, reflecting their accent on giving their youth the opportunity to learn and perform “the traditional dances from their birthplace.”
Goodwin said in planning this festival, “every once in a while, something new comes up,” but with the hiatus last winter, “We’ll stick with all the favorites” for 2013.
One other newer element, Chinese tea time, for which reservations are taken for two lunchtime seatings, will take place in the museum library, Goodwin said.
She remembered hearing from a board member about the first time the museum celebrated Chinese New Year, when 300 to 400 people showed up.
Goodwin said this event “has grown every year since then” as “one of the most popular days and programs here.” Having some activities outside, such as kite flying and dancing, also enhances the atmosphere, weather permitting.
Chris Facente, a sifu, which is Chinese for teacher, from the kung fu school, said he recalls rain dousing the outdoor parts of this festival only once, and he’s encouraged by the dry forecast for this Saturday, even if the mercury stays chilly.
He said the school’s ensemble in attendance might range in age from 10 to 63, and that this year, some other groups will drive in, such as a kung fu club from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and another organization from Rock Hill. He sees this as ideal way to add some other cultural studies for students.
Facente said they all, with help from a Myrtle Beach academy, look forward to helping in two lion dances and demonstrating martial arts.
“Age isn’t what it used to be,” he said, noting in his youth, “70 to 80 was old.”
Thanks to “Kung Fu Panda” and other movies and shows, children gain exposure to the positive effects of martial arts, which also have gained a stronger foothold with individuals ages 60 to 80, Facente said.
“So now we’re getting all ages interested,” he said, “not just youth.”
With their appearances at such culture and community events, including the museum’s, “we try to up the game every time,” Facente said, honored to take part every year in Myrtle Beach.
“The dragon we bring always comes up from the sea,” he said,” and we’ll dance around.”
Celebrating art, culture
This festival fits right in with other family days the museum coordinates to celebrate Gullah culture and the “Day of the Dead.”
“I think it’s just letting the community know the art museum is a place to celebrate art and culture,” Goodwin said, “to learn about one another in a comfortable, fun way.”
Goodwin expects extra joy from Chinese New Year this time, for “it does seem all new again.”
“Just the fact that it is embraced by so many people,” she said, “not just residents, but snowbirds, everybody comes together. Some people just sit ... all day and the different performances, and other folks are walking all over the building, spending time in the studio making masks and lanterns. It’s just really something for all ages, and a great way to celebrate wintertime.”
Reviewing the start of this calendar year with three exhibits, Goodwin said the “Icons & Idols: A Photographer’s Chronicle of the Arts 1960-1995” exhibit upstairs draws crowds who see it not only once, but come back, “bringing friends.”
“People are just loving that,” she said.
Thinking into spring, Goodwin previewed a new exhibit opening April 28, “Fore! Images of Golf In Art,” another theme that should score with museum traffic, especially with Myrtle Beach’s eminence as a paradise for a sport spread across greens, fairways and sand traps.
“That should have wide appeal also,” she said.
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 444-1764.