EDOM | LIFESTYLES MAGAZINE

EDITOR'S NOTE:A version of this story will appear in the May/June issue of Lifestyles Magazine.

Those who take part in the inaugural The Art of Food & Wine Edom on May 11 will be paying homage to the town's heritage as an artist enclave oozing with small-town hospitality and creative souls producing art.

Patrons will arrive to complimentary valet parking and be served wine and appetizers as they tour the artists' studios in town. They will then gather in a field behind the studios for food and entertainment.

Chefs Jackson York and Kat Santos of Foodworx are creating the menu and musicians Maryah McHam and Martyn Popey will perform light jazz selections.

Tickets cost $125 and are available on eventbrite.com.

For some in this town of 300, the event under the stars is a perfect fit for a place that lives or dies by its ability to attract people who want a unique experience and expect quality.

Sponsored by the Edom Chamber of Commerce, The Art of Food & Wine

is replacing a street festival called April in Edom. Among its selling points were a pet parade and more than 100 vendors selling handmade items and folk crafts.

April in Edom was a far cry from the Edom Art Festival, a juried event held each fall in which artists apply for admission. Those who are not serious artists are not allowed to show and sell their work at that festival.

"The problem is that (at April in Edom) people in the street were selling a bunch of junk," said Beth Brown, who along with her husband, Doug, own Potters Brown. "People were coming (to the street fair) from Dallas who didn't understand what had happened to Edom."

The anything-goes street fair wasn't consistent with "the brand that the artists here had worked to create all these years," she says. "We've always presented ourselves as serious artists. This is what we do for a living. We make fine art for a living."

ARTIST COMMUNITY

Edom traces its history to the mid-1800s. Originally there was a post office in southeastern Van Zandt County in a place called Hamburg. When the post office moved to near the present intersection of highways 279 and 314, the community was renamed Edom, a biblical reference to Esau from the book of Genesis.

Edom soon had churches, a hotel, Masonic lodge, wagon factory and saddle shop. Although Tyler to the east and Canton to the west both grew, Edom remained one of those blink-and-you'll-miss-it towns.

For decades, there were not many reasons to go to Edom. And then the artists began arriving.

Doug Brown, a potter, came upon Edom in 1971 while riding through East Texas on his motor scooter. He ended up buying three old buildings and 2 acres on which he set up Potters Brown.

"By the time Doug arrived (in Edom), things were pretty quiet and the locals wanted to keep it that way," says a history of Potters Brown on its website. "They wanted to call him a hippie, but with short hair and working long hours, the old-timers did not know quite what to think. ... People couldn't quite figure how you could dig up dirt, spin it into a pot, cook it and sell it."

Within months after setting up shop, Brown was instrumental in establishing the Edom Art Fair "to give friends and fellow artists an opportunity to sell their wares and to establish the sense of community." One of the artists who came to Edom to show her leather goods was Beth. After they married, she also took up making pottery.

By 1976, Doug Brown had convinced his jewelry making friends Zeke & Marty to relocate to Edom. Other artists followed.

Today, the chamber promotes Edom as a "quaint little town filled with ... fine arts, antiques and southern hospitality. This one stoplight town has a personality like no other. Edom is a true artist community with local artists who have called Edom home for over 40 years. They put Edom on the map!"

ART OF FOOD & WINE

Chris and Georgia Christensen arrived in Edom a year ago, at about the time the chamber began trying to figure out what to do to replace April in Edom as its spring fundraiser.

Mrs. Christensen had worked for decades in corporate branding and marketing for some of the most distinguished retailers in the nation, including a stint as creative director of upscale Neiman Marcus in Dallas.

She and her husband, a commercial photographer, came to Edom to experience a slower pace of life. They jumped at the chance to buy a house and 15 acres of wooded property just north of Edom. Christensen said she went to a chamber meeting to meet new people.

Her new chamber friends were dealing with a problem she knew something about — branding.

Christensen said that what makes Edom special is what she calls "sophisticated approachability." She envisioned a new event "for those who appreciate good food and that celebrates Edom as an arts community at the same time."

She and long-time resident James Wilhite were named the heads of what became The Art of Food & Wine committee. They launched plans for a multicourse dinner under the stars with fine wine and jazz music.

Wilhite loved the idea of ditching April in Edom for The Art of Food & Wine.

"The street festival was not very representative of Edom," he says. "We needed to change and go back to the roots of the town. ... The local culture here is all about getting together and enjoying each other's company. The idea was to expand on that and not to try and do a festival like every other town."

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