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Artists share passion for recreating life’s reflections


Two local artists will be showcasing their work this summer at Jonesborough’s McKinney Center, but don’t be surprised if you’ve heard their names before.

Caroline Tomko, former director of the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center before she retired years ago, and Richie Hayward, whose name has come to be linked locally with a renewed intererest in aerial photography, will both be featured at the Mary B. Program for the Arts second second show of its Artist Exhibition Series.

The exhibition will be open and free to the public starting with the Opening Reception on Friday, June 9, at 6 p.m. It will run through July 21.

The McKinney Center is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

When Artist Carolyn Tomko was growing up up in eastern Virginia, where summer days are hot and humid, one of her favorite things to do as a child was to create mud pies for family, friends, dolls and pets.

It wasn’t enough to just create them, she had to find berries, rocks and even bugs to enhance their beauty.

Years later, when Tomko had a young family, creating tea sets and animals out of Play Dough were some of her favorite family play times.

It therefore seemed only natural to make a full circle and play in clay after retiring from the Town of Jonesborough nine years ago.

One of the beauties of this stage of her life, Tomko said, is the ability to create beautiful pottery that is fired and can last for generations. She loves creating hand-crafted characters such as animals, Santas, gnomes, snowmen, angels and nativities.   

Making houses for birds is always a fun challenge. Pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns are great fall creations. Yard art, wall pockets, tree art and wall decorations are also a joy to create, she said.

Creating usable pottery such as platters and plates is another passion.  It is not enough for her to create a platter, she also adds birds, nests, flowers, or even an animal.

“Almost every day is a ‘clay day,’ ” Tomko said — and she now feels a need to show and sell some of her work. She is not interested in a new career, she said.  She just wants to have fun creating, making new friends, and enjoying old ones.

Like Tomko, Hayward was a later edition to Jonesborough.

After 30 years in law enforcement in South Florida, he retired here, where he has resumed his passion for outdoor and wildlife photography.

In 2005, Hayward made the jump to digital photography and opened a whole adventure in making images. Since then, he has traveled from Katmai National Park photographing brown bears, to South Africa on photo safaris. Richie also traveled extensively across the United States photographing everything from wildlife, scenic and old rusting cars and truck-rusting relics.

Hayward describes his work as, “eclectic”.

His passion, in addition to giving a fresh look to the ordinary, is to spotlight endangered species of wildlife, especially those in Africa such as the much-poached rhino and elephant species. He has been up close and personal with these possible -to-be-extinct creatures. Hayward also likes to share his images via Facebook, digital gallery and community presentations.

According to Director of the McKinney Center Theresa Hammons, “Ritchie Hayward and Carolyn Tomko have something in common. They both interpret the natural environment around them through their artwork. Whether Ritchie is in Africa or Arizona, he captures the beauty and power of nature through his photography. Carolyn’s love for the natural world and the spiritual world is so delicately expressed in her ceramic birds, lily pads, angels and nativities. They both approach their art with passion and reverence for the world around them which is truly moving and inspiring.”

For more information, email Theresa Hammons at [email protected] or call 423-753-0562.