Art in Arbors
Woodland Arts Fair’s Eclectic Collection
By Jamie Robinson
Have things changed over time, evolved, or have they grown stagnant in a sea of crocheted doilies and cornshuck dolls? That was the question posed by a 1999 Ace cover story on the Fair.
At that time there was a movement toward change.Rather than filling the fair with kitschy krafts (with a nod toward some obligatory higher end art) a conscious decision was made to move toward high quality fine art and craft.
The change was coming in the form of a jury process where each artist would have to be “juried” in on an annual basis. Prior to that year, there was a jury process, but artists would be juried in for three or five years at a time.
The goal of making everyone go through the jury process annually from 1999 and beyond, was to step up the quality of the art being sold in hopes that the fair would become more nationally recognized.
The goal was also to have highly credentialed jurors (this year’s panel, for example, includes Diane Wachs, former director of the Headley Whitney museum and a real scholar in decorative arts).
Another way the Lexington Art League planned to reenergize the arts fair was to consult the National Association of Independent Artists (NAIA). The NAIA is a group of artists that exhibit nationally and keep up the line of communication between show organizers and artists.
“They give artists a voice to help organizers find out what artists want in shows,” said Don Ament, a member of NAIA and a local photographer who will be exhibiting in the fair.
The Lexington Art League went to them in order to better model the fair at Woodland Park after the really big festivals like the Cherry Creek Arts Festival in Denver, or Cain Park in Cleveland, who work with the NAIA regularly.
The Art League still consults with the the NAIA and will be consulting with them in preparation for next year’s fair, because four years later it seems that the plan may just be working.
More applications from artists have been submitted in recent years than in years past, meaning that the fair is attracting a wider variety of artists. Ament said there were close to 400 applications this year, which the jury whittled down to the 160 artists that will be presenting this Saturday and Sunday.
The members on the jury change every year. Patrick Kelley, the interim director for the Lexington Art League said that they usually try to get two of the jurors from the immediate community, and then get the third juror from out of state.
Each applicant artist sends in six slides of his or her work. The slides are then judged by the jurors in three different categories: design/aesthetics, technique/craftsmanship, and presentation/impact. Points are awarded and tallied. The highest scores are the artists who make it into the show.
Did it work?
By most accounts, the evolving jury process seems to have greatly increased the quality of the work being shown. James Archambeault, a well known local photographer has been showing his work at the festival for the past 20 years. He feels that the quality and variety of the art has grown tremendously.
“The juried process has increased the quality of the exhibit and brought people from other states,” Archambeault said.
He feels his experience has been a positive one because of the people involved in putting the show together, the interaction with the public who come to his booth, the variety of artists represented and the sheer economics of it. “In terms of sales, it is a good show for all artists,” Archambeault said.
That sentiment is echoed by Lexington painter Charles Jolly. He has been an exhibitor at the Woodland show for 12 years and says, “people do come to the fair and buy art and that has been proven time and time again.”
Jolly also feels that the quality of the fair has improved in the past few years, and the fact that the jury changes every year means that, “this one is never the same fair as last year.”
For photographer Don Ament, who does 15 shows a year, the fair at Woodland Park is the only one he does in Kentucky.
The goals of becoming more focused on art and being nationally recognized set back in 1999 appear to be on track. The First Security Bank Woodland Arts Fair was voted by Sunshine Artist magazine as one of America’s Top 200 art fairs.
“The quality of the fair has improved and it has really become an art fair,” Jolly said.
Twenty one states will be represented at the fair this year, mostly mid-western. Sixteen of the artists are local Lexington artists, so there is a large regional and national representation.
Age is no limit, for the artists participating this year. Austin Jacobs, of Winchester works in the wood medium creating furniture, clocks and boxes, and at 14 he is most likely the youngest juried artist ever accepted to the fair.
Archambeault does acknowledge that the annual jury process may mean some good applicants do not get accepted. The process is subjective so there is the possibility that, “one year people get in and one year they don’t,”he said.
Artists who are not accepted into the fair itself sometimes opt to rent booth space from the Woodland Christian Church located across the street from the park, or in the front yards of the houses that surround the park.
Kelley says that it definitley is an arts fair. There are more craft type things in the jewelry, fiber, wood, and mixied media to a certain extent. However he says, “the crafts we have represented are very artistically made.”
The success of the fair is important to the Art League because, “It is the biggest fundraiser of the year and has been since the seventies,” said Kelley.
This year there are a few more changes. The first and most obvious is that the fair can no longer be called the Woodland Arts Fair, because it is now the First Security Bank Woodland Arts Fair, which you may have noticed. First Security Bank is the new title sponsor.
The price range of the art will very, but the quality of the art will be very high with a wide variety to choose from.
The days of cornshuck dolls and crocheted toilet paper cozies seem to have fallen by the wayside, and what has emerged is a premier art event right here in town, with fun and frolic thrown in for good measure.
The First Security Bank Woodland Arts Fair has had a long history in this community and with the growing number of artists pounding on the doors to get in, and steadily increasing attendance, it will only grow stronger year by year.
The Arts Fair will be held Saturday August 16 from 10 am to 6pm and Sunday August 17, from noon to 6 pm. There will also be entertainment on two stages with a variety of music including bluegrass and traditional, jazz, and local guitar soloists.
There will also be activities for children, a raffle sponsored by the Art League with $1200 dollars worth of prizes donated by several area businesses, and a piece of original artwork by artist Susan Goldstein.
Food vendors will be on hand, and another first for the fair will be the inclusion of beer and wine sales.
The Lexington Art League
The Lexington Art League started with humble beginnings in 1957 with a group of artistic friends. They mounted exhibits in the Courthouse Square and in shops downtown. Membership grew, and so did the offerings and events, but a major change happened in 1976.
America’s bicentennial year was also the year the Lexington Art League was incorporated as a non-profit organization. It marked the beginning of the Art League’s focus on sharing their programs with the people of Central Kentucky.
They joined the Lexington Arts and Cultural Council, and worked with Lexington’s Division of Parks and Recreation to create outdoor events like the First Security Woodland Arts Fair now celebrating 28 years in existence.
The Art League found its home in 1984 when they began leasing the historic Loudoun House from the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government.
In March of 2002, the Art League faced a transition – vacating the Loudoun House for a major restoration to the castellated Gothic Revival Villa completed in 1852 and designed by New York architect A.J. Davis. The house is listed on the national Register of Historic Places and is one of only five such houses designed by Davis. The renovations have been funded by a grant from the Department of the Interior’s “Save America’s Treasures” program and funds matched by the L.F.U.C.G.
Meanwhile, they are temporarily located at 325 Main St. (at Meridian Communications) hosting exhibits and events like the popular Fourth Friday.
“Everyone identifies the Art League with the Loudoun House, that’s where our identity is,” said Patrick Kelley, interim director of the Art League.
Bill Hagan, Secretary of the Board for the Art League said renovations should be complete by November 10.
Of the Art League’s search for a new executive director, Kelley said they began seriously looking a month ago and hope to fill the position by late September or early October.
With a new executive director comes new ideas.
Hagan said that the Art League is consistently evaluating the success of their programs, but there are no concrete plans for changes at this time.
The next Fourth Friday exhibit will feature Storytellers: Artists as Authors from 6-9 p.m. There is a $5 cover for non LAL members
The Lexington Art League is run almost completely on a volunteer basis by its 450 members. For information on becoming a member or other ways to get involved with the LAL go to www.lexingtonartleague.org.
What’s in a Name?
Like Applebee’s field, the 5/3 tennis tourney, and the Coke Olympics, most big events survive and thrive on corporate sponsorships.
Add longtime local fave, the Woodland Arts Fair to the list, as this is the inaugural year of the “First Security Bank Woodland Arts Fair” (the Fair itself celebrates its 28th anniversary).
They are providing financial help that allows the Lexington Art League to award more prize money to the artists and craftsmen in the Best Booth, Best Booth runner-up, and Cutting Edge categories. This is just one more step in attracting better and more diverse artists to the fair.
First Security president John Shropshire is enthusiastic about the bank’s role as the first titled corporate sponsor of the Woodland Arts Fair.
He characterizes the opportunity as a logical partnership for “a local bank with local ownership that’s invested in and committed to the Lexington community.”
Praising the Arts Fair for its diversity, popularity, and longtime status as a Lexington tradition, Shropshire adds that First Security is “proud to be involved in this new relationship.”
Free parking will be offered at First Security’s downtown location on the corner of Rose St. and Main St. with free shuttle service to Woodland Park in vans provided by Freedom Dodge and Quantrell Cadillac.
First Security will also have a booth onsite at the Fair (but please, don’t try to make any deposits or withdrawals in Woodland Park; there are ATMs for that).
By the Numbers
Nothing succeeds like success, and the First Security Bank Woodland Arts Fair is consistently well attended-around 60,000 people in its two days last year.
This year has the makings of continuing the high mark with an expected attendance of 75,000 people and a wide variety of artists.
To participate in the fair, artists send in slides of their work to the Lexington Art League where a three member jury, which changes each year, vote on who gets into the show. Once accepted in the show, the artists pay a booth fee to the LAL and then pocket the profits from sales. The fair is the largest fundraiser for the LAL.
Working in 12 different mediums from 21 states, 160 artists will be selling their artwork during the fair at Woodland Park. The prices range from pocket change to thousands of dollars.
The different mediums include jewelry, wood, painting, fiber, glass, photography, mixed media, ceramics, metalwork, graphics, wood, and drawing.
Jewelry and ceramics have the highest presence with around 20 booths each, while painting is a close third with 19 booths.
There are also high quality crafts/decorative arts to be found.