By Brittney Isringhausen
The streets of downtown Clayton during the weekend of September 11 hosted the 16th annual St. Louis Art Fair. St. Louis is a community that truly sees the value of art in day to day life, so when it came time again to celebrate the visual and performing arts with their yearly art fair, they definitely went all out. Drawing artists from across North America and abroad, the show featured something for everyone’s taste.
Sights, sounds, and smells captivated fair goers in every moment to make the experience unforgettable. Every medium imaginable was represented in visual arts. Ceramics, digital art, drawing and pastels, glass, jewelry, metal, sculpture, painting, 2D and 3D mixed media, wood, photography, and printmaking--it was all there in its greatest forms. The art work was all for sale, but at a hefty price. Pieces ranging from $500 to $20,000 as a norm but a few booths had small trinkets for $20 to $40. I bought a small hand-blown glass bulb from a local artist--he had recently learned to blow glass a few years ago when volunteering at a studio in the St. Louis Art Museum. He talked to the resident artist and quickly picked up the craft and developed his own creative touch in glass working. Some two thousand applicants applied, so to be one of the one hundred and eighty two visual art booths is quite an honor. This free event provided the public with the unique chance to interact with the art and the artist. The art was beautiful and the artists were very enthusiastic about having visitors touch their art and ask questions; the show provided a perfect setting for education and connection with the art and artist.
The performing arts dominated another aspect of the show—three separate stages featured dancing, theatre, music and puppet shows. Some of the acts on the main stage included Abstract Giants, an eight piece live organic hip/hop funk band, and Pat Liston, “an acoustic collision of impassioned songwriting and stimulating music.” The Modern American Dance Company also did a piece. MADC call themselves ‘Chirma,’ a Greek word meaning an illusion or fabrication of the mind, and are said to “push entertainment to the limit with the incredible journey into one of the most mysterious places in human existence… dreams.” Israeli folk dancing, Scottish Country dancers, “Circus Harmony” performers, theater for adults and children, and Native American Flutes by Mark Holland satisfied all appetites for performing arts.
“Art in Action” was another popular draw of the art festival. The artist demonstration stage was not something that fairgoers walked past. Artists showed step by step the use of many mediums such as clay, jewelry, and wearable fibers. For the thirteenth consecutive year the SIU-Carbondale school of art and design brought their Mobile Glass Blowing Studio and Third Degree Glass Factory. Visitors were able to witness and a few were even able to interact with the beautiful art of molten glass blowing.
The art fair would not be complete without a place for kids to make art and express their creativity; the Creative Castle provided several cultural and educational organizations as well as school districts with a vast array of projects. Art Mart generously donated all art supplies. Clayton School districts hosted a Lego booth; Rohon Woods School helped kids make Moroccan Khamas (good luck) hands. El Mundo Latino taught kids different forms of Mexican Folkloric Art. The most popular project put on by the St. Louis Art Fair were paper bag hats which were seen being worn by both adults and children, in all their unique fashions, all weekend.
Another place for hands-on art was at the Art Studio for Adults. As with the Creative Castle, local organizations sponsored and helped teach different projects. Art Dimensions had wire and paint for metal sculptures. Craft Alliance had clay wheels and throwing lessons. A local artist, Thomas Sleet, provided a sculpture studio and taught visitors to utilize common metal and steel objects to assemble small metal sculptures. El Mundo Latino also had a project for the adults with jewelry making with unique stones and different metals. Art Mart donated supplies for Art Studio as well.
Two thumbs up to St. Louis for putting on an outstanding art fair. Visual and performing arts were represented in numerous ways, many ways I had never imagined. We are quite lucky to live so close to a city like St. Louis that places such value on art and expression. If you missed out on the art fair no worries. There are festivals and fairs going on there quite often and hey, the art museum is always free!