This Week's Poll

Comments - bottom of page


Faces of Olustee Art Exhibit

Guests enjoyed listening to Olustee Festival Poster Artist Jennifer Chasteen talk about the heart of living history. -Photo by Jill Childs

By Jill childs

Thousands of people pour into Lake City each year to visit the Olustee Festival and Battle Reenactment. While the community undoubtedly enjoys the history and excitement surrounding these events, few people truly realize the full extent of the artistic and educational fervor that is behind it all. Last Friday the Blue-Grey Army, host of the Olustee Battle Festival, in partnership with the Gateway Art Gallery and Olustee Festival Poster Artist Jennifer Chasteen hosted Faces of Olustee Art Exhibit at the Gateway Art Gallery located at 168 North Marion Avenue in Lake City, to take the community deeper behind the scenes of the Olustee festivities.

The night of the event Gateway Art Gallery was full of people enjoying the presentations, the artwork and the wine and cheese reception hosted by the San Sebastian Winery. The exhibit began with Cody Gray, the Media and Public Relations Director for the Blue-Grey Army, who expressed his thanks to the sponsors, the Blue-Grey Army Executive Director Faye Bowling, Jennifer Chasteen, and the Gateway Art Gallery. Next, Mark Feagle, the Commanding General of the Blue-Grey Army, thanked all of the volunteers and sponsors and gave a timeline for the Olustee weekend.

Feagle then introduced Jennifer Chasteen, who began her presentation by telling of her passion for living history and its role in education. Chasteen feels honored to be the poster artist for the Blue-Grey Army, not only because she enjoys art and photography, but also because she enjoys seeing people “see” history. In speaking of her artwork, Chasteen stated,

“We had a vision for this that we would be able to bring to the public the heart of living history, what Olustee is …. I wanted to capture them where they were, as they were, what they were doing.”
Chasteen introduced three sets of reenactors. The first, Naomi Blazer, was introduced to living history while in elementary school. Since that childhood experience Blazer became hooked on living history. She joined a group of African American reenactors and her passion has continued to grow. Chasteen was drawn to photograph Blazer because she was captured by her smile and the way children enjoy being around her.

Jennifer Chastain, left, and Naomi Blazer, right. -SVT Photos by Jill Childs

Chasteen then introduced a group of three children who have been a part of Olustee since before they were born. Chasteen explained that this family dresses up each year, does primitive camping, and “feels” the history. She was captivated by this family and wanted to photograph them because they put such care into their outfits and do their best to act as though they are in the Civil War time period while reenacting.

Grandmother Kathy Spivey said these three have been a part of Olustee since before they were born. -SVT Photo by Jill Childs

The last group that was introduced by Chasteen is a “family that does it because it is their heritage …. They want people to see this side of history.” This family has a large group of people that accompany them; they set up their tents, they act in character, and they impress their audiences.

During Chasteen’s presentation, guests could look at the individuals in their costumes standing in the art gallery, and only do their best to picture them in a time and environment that would match their clothing, but when shown Chasteen’s artistic depictions, guests imaginations surely came alive. Chasteen’s combined interests for art and history come together and she creatively makes the photographs look like they are in the Civil War time period.

Jennifer Chasteen called Olustee “a Columbia County family affair.” This is well represented by this photo of the Frisina, Hyatt, and Ingram families pictured above. -SVT Photo by Jill Childs

After Chasteen’s presentation, guests could enjoy the wine and cheese reception while chatting and perusing the artwork. The evening was a way to open up the ceremonies of the Olustee Festival with education and art, but also a way for the Gateway Art Gallery to build an awareness in the community.

Cody Gray said, “On behalf of Blue-Grey Army it was a great turnout and went very well. Very, very successful. We were happy to have San Sebastian Winery there and to have major sponsors there (First Federal and Century Ambulance) and thought it was a great chance to kick off the Olustee Festival and to showcase the Gateway Art Gallery to the community.” Gray also said there were an estimated 70 people in attendance.

The 39th Annual Olustee Battle Festival will take place February 17-18, 2017. The 42nd Annual Olustee Battle Reenactment will take place February 18-19, 2017.

For more information on the Olustee Festival, visit The Gateway Art Gallery can be found on Facebook as the Art League of North Florida/Gateway Art Gallery.