BY KRISTINA ROSEN
For the past several years, the Woodland Art Fair has brought in more than 65,000 people, and this year, a little rain didn't scare away the crowds. Once again, The Big Tent helped up-and-coming local artists make their name known.
The Big Tent, which was implemented in 2013, is a way for the Lexington Art League to emphasize the programming they do within the community, as well as introduce local artists to the fair and prove they’d be a good fit. Each year, four local artists are invited to sell their work under the giant tent at no cost. This year, the four featured artists were Rob Bridges, Luke Gnadinger, Stacey Chinn, and potter Leah Combs. As a Kentucky native and current potter in Lexington, Combs knew what it was like to be an aspiring artist in this community. “Kentucky, and especially Lexington has a strong support system when it comes to artists encouraging each other and putting emphasis on community,” says Combs.
Before Combs had the means for her own studio, she worked in a studio owned by Amelia Stamps. While working at this studio, she was able to assist Stamps with her booth at Woodland. Combs says she continued to help Stamps with her booth for a few years since there is much to learn about ceramics within the practice itself and on the business side. As an artist who wants to take her work to the next level, she hoped to eventually have a booth at Woodland. Thanks to the “Big Tent” concept and Comb’s involvement with smaller events, she was given the opportunity to be involved in this year’s fair. “The Big Tent is an amazing opportunity for emerging artists who are wanting to dip their toes in the market of art shows and meet other artists from all over the country who are also in the business,” says Combs. “Events like monthly markets and art festivals build a community of makers and artists,” explains Combs. Different artists and diverse medias come through the fair, but the theme of homemade artwork resonates year after year. “Everything that is handmade encompasses the person who made that piece. It becomes an intimate experience when you look at or use something a person made with their bare hands.” Combs continues, “It’s as if you’re holding a piece of them with you. Countless hours of experimentation, frustration, failure, and finally success.” “There is the potential to literally take a chunk of clay out of the ground and create something beautiful out of dirt,” she says.Subscribe to the Ace e-dition for Lexington news, arts, culture, and entertainment, delivered to your inbox every Thursday morning.