Art exhibitors from all over are converging at Michigan City’s Washington Park this weekend for the Lakefront Art Festival, which has been an August staple in the city by the lake for more than three decades.
“We have new artists every year, and a lot of them come back,” said Amy Davis Navardauskas, marketing director at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts, the organization that puts on the popular yearly festival. “We have the same activities for families so the kids can get a break from shopping with their parents here and there.”
James Stawowy, a retired pharmacist from Pottawattamie Park, was one of the newcomers, participating in his first major show since he turned his hobby of constructing exotic woods into Exotic Woods Treasure Boxes, his wooden boxes business.
“I’m really liking the Festival,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to come out and get sunshine, see all the different products and maybe even buy an exotic wood box.”
While Stawowy hardly had a long drive to get to Washington Park, some artists came from as far as Florida, Georgia and Missouri.
Lori Kay Olling was born in La Porte, but has been living in Tampa, Florida for about three decades now. The metalsmith who turns metal jewelry into “special one-of-a-kind pieces,” is making a return to the Festival this year after a three-year hiatus.
“I’m glad I was able to pair this show with one in Pittsburgh and get to come back while seeing family in Michigan City,” she said, calling her time at the Festival “a working vacation.”
All 100-plus artists at the fair fit into one of six categories, 2-D; Jewelry; Fine Craft; Photography; Sculptural Art and Wearable Art.
“We try to spread (the exhibits) out through the categories so we have a really nice offering when people come out,” Davis Navardauskas said.
Winners were judged early on Saturday and announced in the afternoon. The top three (in order) in 2-D Anne Hanley, Ann Tompkins and Chris Plummer. In Jewelry it was Maggie Joyce, Steve Shaikh and Kathleen Clausen, while Brian Bream, Retta Hentschel and Richard Dlugo were winners in the Fine Craft category.
James French, Jason Joslin, Timothy Johnson were voted the top three photographers as Jimmy Langford, John Ryska and Greg Summers won in Sculptural Art and Amanda Joyner, Roberta Hummel and Carol Adamson were the best in Wearable Art.
Six artists from the Lubeznik Center’s Area Artists Association were on display under a single tent.
One of them, Carol Block, says she enjoys “seeing people I know and showing them what my work is” most about the Festival while Barb Balis was happy to see “lots of people inquiring and asking about membership.”
Michigan and Indiana had their fair share of exhibitors out on Saturday, but Chicago had a couple of representatives as well.
Amy Huisinga, a painter from the city, said her most popular work is one of the Lighthouse in Michigan City, while others enjoy her depictions of Silver Lake and Warren Dunes up in Southwest Michigan.
“I’ve had pretty good crowds here with people really interested in the work,” she said. “I’ve been here for 6-7 years and see some of the same customers coming back.”
Jim Klekowski of Ellis Avenue Studios in Chicago, said “the diversity of the art out here is incredible.”
“Some of us come out here to trade art because it is so good,” he said.
A unique display of Americana images and old logos, collaged together in painting, was on display from Brian Sullivan of Champaign, Illinois.
“I try to integrate different objects in paintings to help put them into a new context,” he said. “I just make paintings and place things in there so people can make their own stories from it.”
All proceeds from the $4 gate admission benefit the Lubeznik Center’s programs, exhibits and outreach efforts.
“It all goes back to the community through arts programming,” Davis Navardauskas said, who added that “it takes about a year” to organize a Festival of this size through talks with artists, creating a pricing schedule and logistic planning.
The Lakefront Art Festival continues Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Exhibits will be on display indoors at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts, which is just a couple blocks from Washington Park, for those wishing to beat the heat. A free shuttle is also available for those wishing to park at the Center and ride over.
“We try to make this (the Festival) open, un-intimidating and great way for people to experience the arts,” Davis Navardauskas said. “Maybe someone who hasn’t engaged previously will. Hopefully this is an entry point for them to want to see our galleries and take some classes at the Center.”