Students Hamilton and Schilling Will Participate in Trip to Ireland
Fine arts students Elizabeth Schilling and Victoria Hamilton sit at the end of an island-like table in their “home,” the art department of Sandhills Community College.
Woodblock, intaglio, zinc and solar prints are stacked high, and etching tools are strewn about as the artwork is prepared for sale.
The girls’ original artwork will be for sale on Sunday, July 31, during the Solas concert at Poplar Knight Spot, in Aberdeen. The funds they raise will help fund their upcoming trip to the Maiden of the Mournes Festival in Northern Ireland, where they will represent Southern Pines in a pageant.
The friends banteringly complete each other’s sentences and echo each other’s smiles while Bon Iver’s music further spices the room’s color. Fervor for composing their unique spirits on paper and the visiting of foreign countries bridges the girls’ complementing personalities. Schilling’s long blonde hair halos blue-green eyes and freckles as she intently works over quaint copperplate etchings of solitude: a lone paper airplane, a distant kite, sepia hot air balloons.
One of 10 children of Kathy and Justin Schilling, she is defined by a fellow student as “graciously bewitching,” and is surrounded by an aura of curiosity and frequent smiles. Next to her redhead Victoria laughs often, and is covered in color, from the oil printing ink sleeving her hands to her happy attire. Her prints overflow with the life of graphic stylized art: orange mushrooms and maroon trees and 1970s green birds on a wire.
A native of Sanford, Hamilton is the daughter of Alicia and Sam Hamilton, eldest child of what she affectionately calls “the tribe” — five children, a hyper dog, and a couple of cats. In the same art department that initiated their friendship, the girls’ bond seems to have only knitted itself tighter through their hasty preparations for crossing the Atlantic for Ireland early next week.
The Maiden of the Mournes Festival celebrates its 22nd year, with the inclusion of girls from England, Ireland, America, Canada and Spain, gracing the streets of Warrenpoint, Ireland, for a weeklong affair that includes free open air musical entertainment each evening, children’s events, a fireworks display, sports events, the festival banquet, brass and accordion bands, and finally, the crowning of the Maiden of the Mournes. Schilling has acquired an irrevocable fondness for the country, as evidenced by her treasured Celtic necklaces. She plans to fly there before the pageant begins to explore more of the country.
Schilling explains why as she reflects on how far removed the festival is from stereotypical high competition beauty pageants.
“The festival was a brilliant blend of elegant class and funky antics,” she says. “For instance, one event that all the maidens had the privilege of attending was the Tiny Tots Disco, a wee dance in the town hall where children 10 and under could get all dressed up and have a blast! Imagine 50 laughing children jumping up and down and you can’t help but dance along.”
Schilling is thrilled that Hamilton will be enjoying the memorable upcoming week with her.
“Victoria is fun, energetic and sweet — all three characteristics of an Irish maiden, and I believe that she will show the people of Ireland a little of the spunky genuine side of a Southern girl.”
Hamilton returns the compliment.
“I’m excited for the new experience, the travel, and going with a great friend and fellow art student,” she says.
She recites her to-do list, which has had to be accomplished in haste.
“My first reaction to finding out that I was accepted was a ‘Yay!’ That was followed by a ‘Gosh, I have a month to prepare for two weeks overseas!’ As you can imagine, there’s a huge rush in getting packed, ready, and sanely ending this semester while preparing for next.”
The Irish festival was originally begun with expectations of receiving more visitors to the charming town of Warrenpoint, Ireland.
Schilling and Hamilton say that they are involved in the pageant for the unique social experience.
Schilling says that she “cannot wait to see all the committee members and friends, as well as the chance to meet all the new maidens of this year. The weather is simply a plus. You can’t beat 60 degrees in August.”
Hamilton emphatically agrees.
“I am excited. I get to learn how to travel alone, which is a first,” she says. “I’ll be meeting people from a very different culture, and it’s thrilling to see how it all will unfold. I would like to come back seeing the differences and similarities in our two cultures.”
Both of the girls express gratitude to Ireland’s council for allowing them to participate in an event that surges with family-oriented culture. They will be dining with local governmental officials, engaging in a personality contest, an obstacle course, and leading the parade — all events fun-filled and aimed at evoking their character so the judges can determine who best represents their hometown and their Irish sister city, Newry.
“It was an honor beyond anything I could have imagined that I would have been chosen as a representative for both towns last year,” Schilling says. “Every girl who participated was first class and as for the characteristics of the reigning maiden, any one of them would have been a superb choice.”
Hamilton’s boyfriend of three years, Brandon Lee, believes that regardless of whether she returns with a crown and a sash, she is a fitting expression of Southern Pines.
“She’s a real people person,” he says. “She won’t say it because she’s humble, but I know her as being driven and beautiful, inside and out.”
The crowning will be, for Schilling, “In a word, bittersweet. This past year has been an amazing experience and a huge opportunity for growth. Seeing it end will most likely bring tears; however, those tears will also be tears of joy because I will be passing on a legacy to another wonderful girl who will have the time of her life ahead of her. I can only wish her the best of luck and a wish for a year unlike anything she’s ever imagined.”
For Hamilton, the crown would be a happy addition to the trip, but is not the focus.
“I want to avoid the idea that the only reason I’m going is for the perceived frivolity of a pageant,” she says. “I love to dress up, but really I’m looking forward to this trip as a huge social learning experience and better understanding of the world.”
Schilling and Hamilton will be involved in the festival from Aug. 7-14.
Another art sale will be held Thursday, Aug. 28, at the Dempsey Student Center from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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