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Krasl Art Fair returns to Southwest Michigan this weekend

Published 10:29am Friday, July 10, 2009

By JESSICA SIEFF

Niles Daily Star

ST. JOSEPH – Though it may require a little restoration time and again, art remains long after the paint has dried, after the dust from the sculpture has blown away or the screen printed.
It takes many forms, in sculpted sand, stone, wood or clay, paint on canvas, pencil and pen on paper – even delicate glass beads on a string.
And this weekend, art will take on every form with a show of force when the 48th Annual Krasl Art Fair returns to St. Joseph, drawing in artisans from all over Southwest Michigan and across the country.
Those who have yet to experience the fair will find an event fostering more than just art appreciation – but art interaction, with artists showing their work, discussing their work and sharing their love for their respective art forms.
“An art fair to me, is exactly what it sounds like,” said Sara Shambarger, Krasl Art Fair and special events director. “An event where artists sell their wares. The community turns out for the food, fun, conversation and, the artists hope, to buy some art.”
The first art fair featured an estimated 100 artists and craftsmen and women. They brought their work for show and for sale to Lake Bluff Park. Their work was seen by a stunning debut group of visitors – what the association along with the Krasl Art Center has estimated as 3,000 to 5,000 people.
The event has only grown over time, in scope, size and spectators. It has continued influencing and delighting generations of visitors and art lovers and creating a solid platform for area artists to showcase their work and continue their contributions to their world by way of new, inevitably timeless pieces.
This year, the 48th Annual Krasl Art Fair will return to St. Joseph on Saturday and Sunday, July 11 and 12 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
“What makes the Krasl Art Fair different is the location,” Shambarger said. “The bluff adds that extra jewel in the crown of the event. Customers stroll along the scenic route, enjoying the view, stopping at whatever of the 217 booths catches their eye.”
Over 200 artists nationwide are selected to “bring their best to the bluff.” This year’s list features photography by James Richmond of Titusville Fla., hand carved wood sculpture with incorporated found objects by Mark Orr of Pinckney, jewelry by James Blanchard of Traverse City, drawings and pastels by Kansas City’s Randal Spangler and clay non-functional art by Richland’s Michael Kifer.
The fair has become a nationally recognized and critically acclaimed event by artists, experts and patrons and each year it continues to draw and attract high-quality artists.
For the artists – the fair provides an opportunity for validation, in a sense. A jury comprised of educators, art enthusiasts and a diverse range of peer artists assess works during the event. This year’s jury includes Karen Bondarchuk, assistant professor and foundation area coordinator for Western Michigan University, Hollie Blakeney, founder and owner of Chartreuse Studio and Art Gallery in St. Joseph, professional artists Cherie Okonski, director of exhibitions and collections, Tami Gadbois and Tom Allen a freelance illustrator in Coloma and adjunct faculty at the Kendall College of Art in Grand Rapids.
Awards given out during the event include the 11th Annual Krasl Board Choice Award and the Friends of the Krasl Best of Category Awards.
Recognition and hopefully a little revenue will be generated by those artists taking part in the event, as it seems during these tough economic times, artistry has also suffered.
“The Krasl Art Fair is the largest exhibit of fine arts and fine crafts of the Krasl Art Center for the year.  Where else can people buy art direct from the artists who created it? Artists are struggling in this recession troubled times and are anxious to sell their art,” said Shambarger.
The event is geared to art lovers and aficionados of all ages.
“Some people believe art is too expensive,” she added. “But we have price points for everyone including children.”
The fair features a Children’s Art Purchase Program (CAPP) for which artists volunteer certain pieces of their work to be sold to children 14 and under for $10 or less.
“Art is the visual representation of somebody’s thoughts, feelings or ideas,” Shambarger said. “It is an expression of feelings and experiences.”
And an experience is exactly what the Krasl Art Fair seems to provide for all those who take the time to take part.

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