By Jeannette Carrington
The picturesque City Park in Edwardsville, Illinois, next to the Edwardsville Library, played host to the annual Edwardsville Art Fair from Sept. 22-24, 2023. This three-day celebration of creativity drew art enthusiasts, families, and visitors from near and far to revel in the vibrant world of the visual arts. Organized by the Edwardsville Arts Center, this year’s fair featured approximately 100 accomplished artists who delighted attendees with their diverse array of artistic expressions.
The event’s core attraction was the juried art competition, where artists from various backgrounds showcased and sold their works across an extensive range of categories. Attendees were treated to a captivating blend of ceramics, digital art, glass, jewelry, mixed media, painting, photography, sculptures, textiles, wood, and paper.
From seasoned artists with decades of experience to emerging talents, the fair celebrated art in all of its forms, offering something for every palate. Visitors were able to engage with artists, discuss their techniques, and even buy unique pieces to adorn their living spaces. The inclusive atmosphere welcomed artists and art lovers alike, making it a perfect setting for anyone with a passion for the arts.
Family-Friendly Art Extravaganza
The Edwardsville Art Fair went above and beyond by providing three days of family-friendly events, diverse vendors, tantalizing food and drinks, as well as a delightful Children’s Art Gallery and Collaborative Art Project. It was a perfect opportunity for families to spend quality time together while appreciating art.
Throughout the event, attendees had the chance to see live demonstrations of painting and clay throwing, offering a fascinating glimpse into the creative work process. For those looking for a touch of whimsy, face painting and sweet-making stations added an extra layer of delight to the festivities.
Entertainment for All Tastes
The art fair was not just about visual art; it also catered to auditory senses with a lineup of eclectic entertainment. The stage came alive with performances by Random Gravity, The Skylark Brothers, Edwardsville High School Chamber Strings and Choir, the SIUE Suzuki Program, Dance Hipnotíque, Tessitura Music, Thomas Voice Studio, SIUE Dance, and O’Faolain Academy of Irish Dance. These performances added a harmonious touch to the vibrant atmosphere, making it a weekend filled with sensory delights.
The 2023 Edwardsville Art Fair Winners
One of the most anticipated moments of the fair was the announcement of the winners. The coveted “Best of Show” title went to Andrew Rola, displaying his exceptional talents in painting at booth 62. Steve McNeil received the “Mayor’s Award” for his outstanding woodwork at booth 77.
First place in 3D works was secured by Tim Stambaugh, who wowed the judges with his ceramics displayed at booth 49. Liz Davidson took home the first place in 2D works with her striking textiles exhibited at booth 38.
Other notable winners included Steven Martin (second place in 3D works), Kent and Cindy Durk (second place in 2D works), Joseph Cyberski (third place in 3D works), and Bradford Pollack (third place in 2D works).
Additionally, several artists were bestowed the “Awards of Excellence,” including Rocky Pardo, Cara Van Leuven, Dianna Pallas, Rob Gilmore, Allison Norfleet Bruenger, Michael Terra, Gerald & Laurie Wilhite, Barry Charles Wallace, William Richards, and Mollie Chounard.
The “Children’s Art Gallery Donation Award” recognized the exceptional talent of Emily Cross for her works on paper and Bill McKenney for his remarkable sculpture.
Best of Show winner, Andrew Rola, took his surrealist paintings to the next level by animating them and creating an augmented reality app where you can see his paintings come to life. His booth visitors were in awe as he showed them how to use the app to make his paintings come to life. “I am animating every one of my paintings. The dreamlike scenes come to life with the app that I built myself,” Rola said, “I am constantly adding on to the animations, so if you buy a painting from me, the animation will look different five years from now than it does today.”
Award of Excellence winner Cara Van Leuven specializes in painting horses using thick, layered oils. Van Leuven had been growing weary of working corporate jobs. She lost her job, house, and comfort during the 2008 recession. “The only job that I could get was as a carriage driver, which reunited me with horses and reignited the passion that had been dormant. I moved into an unrenovated loft in downtown St. Louis that was full of artists who encouraged me to paint,” Van Leuven explained. She completed her first painting of horses in 2011 and has continued developing her passion ever since.
A Celebration of Art with a Rich History
In an interview with Edwardsville Art Center gallery assistant Avalon Eales, we uncovered the rich history and significance of the Edwardsville Art Fair. “The Edwardsville Art Fair has been running since 2014. It has even been on the same weekend every year! The Art Fair was started to give local artists in Edwardsville an opportunity to showcase their artwork. There is a large artist population not only in Edwardsville but in the surrounding towns too. It’s also a fundraiser to help the center; it funds almost everything we do for the whole year,” Eales shared.
Eales also elaborated on the fair’s evolution; “The number of vendors has increased over the years. I started helping with Art Fair planning in early 2020, right at the pandemic’s peak. That was the only year we did not have the fair due to COVID restrictions. However, we hosted a fair in 2021 that hosted around 85 artists. In 2022 we hosted around 90, and this year we hit just over 100 artists! Every year we need more space because there is just too much local talent!”
The fair’s mission is clear, as Eales explained, “We hope to provide a space for any artist to sell their artwork and to be seen by the local community. We also want to create a space where anyone can stop by and appreciate and purchase fine art, as well as having many opportunities for kiddos to come and show their artistic side! Not only with collaborative projects but with a children’s art gallery where they can begin their own art collection.”
The Edwardsville Art Fair, with its rich history and commitment to showcasing local artists, has truly become a center stone of the Edwardsville community. It stands as a testament to the power of art in bringing communities together and nurturing creative talent. This year’s Edwardsville Art Fair once again proved that art has the power to bring people together, to inspire, and to highlight the incredible talents of individuals from all walks of life. It’s an event that truly celebrates the vibrant world of visual arts and enriches the cultural tapestry of Edwardsville and beyond.
Check out photos from the event on our Flickr; www.flickr.com/photos/thelcbridge
To explore the extraordinary lineup of artists featured in the 2023 Edwardsville Art Fair, visit the event’s official website; edwardsvilleartscenter.com/art-fair-artists-2023
Or you can learn about some of the artists directly! Here is a list of artists with available websites:
- Andrew Rola, painting – booth 62; andrewrola.com
- Tim Stambaugh, ceramics – booth 49; tasceramics.com
- Liz Davidson, textiles – booth 38; mostlyfibers.square.site
- Kent and Cindy Durk, photography – booth 22; 360icon.com
- Rocky Pardo, Jewelry – booth 75; rockypardo.com/
- Cara Van Leuven, painting – booth 72; caravl.com
- Rob Gilmore, photography – booth 65; robgilmorephoto.com
- Allison Norfleet Bruenger, jewelry – booth 63; alnbcollections.com
- Michael Terra, ceramics – booth 15; terracottageceramics.com
- Gerald & Laurie Wilhite, mixed media – booth 21; evergreenmountainpens.com
- Barry Charles Wallace, sculpture – booth 24; kernelsgraphics.com
- Mollie Chounard, painting – booth 39; molliechounard.com
- Emily Cross, paper media – booth 70; instagram.com/cross_cut_papers
- Bill McKenney, sculpture – booth 82; billsretrorobots.art