The artist behind the Tryon Rhythm & Wine Festival painting

Published 4:30 pm Monday, April 17, 2017

The Tryon Downtown Development Association’s inaugural Tryon Rhythm & Wine Festival, presented by New View Realty, will take place on Saturday, May 6 from 3-7 p.m. at the Tryon Depot Plaza.

For the event, the Rhythm & Wine Festival Committee worked with Jennifer Mills, a local artist, to create a vibrant painting that has set the stage for the poster, T-shirts and tasting glasses. The original artwork on canvas will be auctioned off live at the event, with proceeds benefiting downtown improvement projects.

“Jennifer did a great job at capturing what we hope to be the atmosphere of the festival,” said Jamie Carpenter, executive director of TDDA “We wanted to emphasize local wine and a great selection of jazz, blues and Dixieland style music.”

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After a 30-year career in broadcasting, including a partnership with Arnold Palmer in launching the Golf Channel, Greenville, S.C. native Jennifer Mills has traded in the microphone for a paintbrush. While the medium is different, she says the goal is the same. “In TV we tell the story with words. Now I do it with paint, canvas and a brush.”

As an anchor, writer and interviewer for The Travel Channel, PM Magazine, Golf Channel, NBC Sports and Masters TV, Mills traversed six continents hosting shows and covering events. Interviewees include hundreds of the best known sports, entertainment and political personalities including Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Kevin Costner, Matt Damon, Charlize Theron, Michael Jordan, Garth Brooks, Clint Eastwood and four presidents to name a few. The exciting nature of live television carries over into her bold, colorful style.

Jennifer Mills

“In live TV, every day is a brand new story. There’s no turnaround time, so you have to deliver the wow quickly. I’m sure that influences my style as an artist. I love using bold colors, lots of different techniques and I paint quickly.” Whether in oils or acrylics, Mills’ works are vibrant and eye catching, the subject matter ranging from landscapes and wildlife to local landmarks and people. Her sources come from thousands of pictures taken while on the road and from what she sees every day in the Carolinas.

“My husband has become a master at the U-turn. I carry a camera everywhere and we are constantly turning around because the lighting is amazing on a certain city street, barn or garden. This area is a Pandora’s box of opportunities to paint.”

Just as a good interview delves into the human person and their unique stories and grabs the viewer, Mills feels that a piece of art can capture that same attentiveness and imagination. 

“In journalism, the heart of a story usually isn’t what we see on the outside. It’s deeper than that. A lot of players can shoot great scores, but it’s the humble golfer who has overcome incredible odds to succeed that captures my attention,” adds Mills. “In choosing sources for paintings, I think the same way. The best are often hidden gems.”

“I’m very fortunate with artistic genes from my mom, but the actual road to this second career was totally unplanned,” says Mills. “My mother in law was a fabulous oil painter. When she became a widow, I spent time with her to keep her company. She asked me to paint with her and started teaching me. I thought I was doing her a favor and in fact, she gave me the gift of a lifetime.  It’s truly an example of how in giving, we receive.”

Making the shift from broadcasting to painting isn’t as big a jump as some might think.  According to Mills, the procedure is similar.

“You never finish becoming a better writer. Just as I’m learning you never finish becoming a better artist.  It’s an ongoing process.  I’m constantly taking lessons and going to workshops to learn more. As one of my favorite artists Jim Carson likes to say, you have to put in the ‘brush mileage.’

Mills’ work can be seen in galleries in both Florida and the Carolinas including local sites like The Nest Artisan Market, Thompson’s Garden Gallery, Black Coffee, FENCE and Tryon Painters and Sculptors in Tryon and Bright’s Creek Golf Club in Mill Spring. 

Music at the event will feature two great bands: Blair Crimmins and The Hookers and the Snopes Family Band.​

Tryon Rhythm & Wine Fest tickets can be purchased online at If you prefer to purchase in person, you can find tickets at The Tryon Bottle in downtown Tryon. Tickets include a tasting glass and wine/beer samples, with the opportunity to purchase a full pour.

This event is produced by the Tryon Downtown Development Association, and proceeds will benefit downtown improvement projects. This is a rain or shine event and a 21 and over event. Sorry-no kids, ID must be presented at the gate. No pets will be permitted at festival. No guns are allowed on festival grounds either.

TDDA works to revitalize and preserve downtown Tryon through economic development, quality design and preserving the historic nature of downtown, and promotion of downtown. TDDA does this through partnerships with the Polk County Community Foundation, businesses, local government, governing boards and more.

– article submitted by Jamie Carpenter