What better way to wind up the summer thaN with an art fair at Woodland Park?

First Security Bank’s Woodland Arts Fair, organized by the Lexington Art League, happens to be Lexington’s largest outdoor event — and is free to the public.

The Woodland Arts Fair has helped wrap up summer each August for almost 30 years, and has recently been voted a 2004 Top Ten Festival by the Kentucky Tourism Council. Every year the arts fair has grown a little different from the year before, and the Lexington Art League along with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Division of Parks and Recreation, promise that this year’s fair will have something new too.

This year, it looks like they couldn’t have paid for better weather. Isn’t August supposed to be the stifling hot, muggy time of year when you’re forced to sit in front of your AC in a tank top and flip flops rather than go to the pool . . . again? Isn’t August the month where all the grass dies, Birks melt to the pavement, and flesh is seared every time you get in your car?

Imagine how pleasant it will be to stroll around this year’s festival Saturday and Sunday (August 21st & 22nd), viewing work from over 200 artists from all over the country — especially if it’s under a 100 degrees outside.

The art is the spotlight of this annual tradition, and each of these 200 artists had to be juried into the fair. The Fair has had a long and illustrious past — and at one point, a steady onslaught of complaints — that the focus had become more on the “Fair” and less on the “Art.” Intense debates were held as to the merits of whether or not cornshuck dolls and toilet paper cozies constituted the “fine craft” that the community seemed to expect from a world class Arts Fair.

In response, the Art League got serious about jury selection, and stopped automatically grandfathering in the purveyors of corn-cob pipes. As a result, the Fair has showed steady progression in quality, and last year secured a named sponsor in First Security Bank.

This year’s jury brings diversity and experience to the table. Kathy Walsh-Piper (Director of the University of Kentucky Art Museum), Mary Miller (Executive Director of the Kentucky Museum of Art and Design), and Robert Franzini (Professor of Art and department chair at Morehead State University), make up the panel of judges for this year’s fair.

They reviewed over 600 entries before deciding on the 200 artists presenting. These jurors will also be at the fair in order to select the award winning work. Almost every medium will be represented and each entry is sure to have a style and a message of its own, making the fair a spectacular outdoor exhibit.

A few locals

The fair not only brings several national artists to town, it also spotlights some of Lexington’s finest.

Don Ament, a local photographer is a longtime contributor to the Woodland Art Fair. When asked how he thought the fair has changed over the years he replied, “Woodland has become a lot more professional in the past few years, both in terms of the quality of the work on exhibit, and the promotion and publicity. The challenge of developing an audience that appreciates and supports (by that I mean buys) the higher quality work is the current direction for the show.”

While the Fair still attracts scores of bargain shoppers (and there are bargains to be had) —and some may come away with nothing more than a funnel cake and a good time (not that there’s anything wrong with that) — it also now attracts serious collectors who return annually with black AmEx in hand, willing to pay top dollar for fine art/craft/decorative art.

Wyman Rice, a local sculptor (recently profiled in Ace’s Art in the Country issue), is another long time participant at the fair. He has won the Purchase Award, meaning that his work was not only awarded for excellence, but it produces revenue as well.

When asked why he consistently participates Rice answered casually, “I do it because it’s a mile from my house. I have been doing the fair almost since it started. It gives me a lot of repeat business.” When asked how he, as a seasoned veteran, thought the fair has evolved, Rice said, “The quality of the fair and the organization has improved—it’s become a show of national stature. This is good because it brings in new work and keeps the public interested.”

Other local artists bringing their wares are John Zeigler and Ashley Watson showing us what they can do with glass. Shirley Jeter is presenting her watercolor paintings. Keith Chambers is representing the genre of woodwork. Jewelry artists will be there in full force including Ronnie and Willena Belden, as well as Julia Weber from Adventure Creations.

It’s worth a stop by Christy and Juanita’s booth in the textile medium, simply because they

call themselves, “The Knitchicks.” That way when someone asks where you got your cool new toboggan, you can say that The Knitchicks made it for you.

The Fest

To make this art show a festival, there will be two stages for music and several family friendly activities. One stage will showcase musicians from the region who will play everything from Bluegrass to contemporary music. Some of the local favorites include, the Bristol Trio, the Swells, Mother Jane, Ruby’n’Em, and Pat McNeese. The other stage will present a variety of shows including, children performances, African Drums, ballet, cheerleading, and even a magic show.

There will also be free, hands on entertainment for the kids, sponsored by area non-profit organizations. These activities include, creating collages and bookmarks, tree costumes, and sculpting. You can also stop and watch Art Live, where artists will be creating a larger than life lawn painting.

Wild Oats Natural Marketplace will provide the food for the Great Artist Award Reception, Saturday evening at 6:30pm. There will also be a food, wine, and beer gardens held in the park throughout the fair, selling everything from smoothies out of coconuts to burgers, gyros, and ice cream.

This year, Parks and Recreation, along with First Security Bank will provide a free shuttle service to and from the fair. It will run approximately every ten minutes to Woodland Park, from the corner of Main and Rose.n

The fair runs from Saturday August 21st from 10am-6pm and Sunday the 22nd from 11am-5pm. INFO, 859/254-7024 or visit