Missouri and Illinois friends of the arts can find at least one – and usually more – regional art fair every weekend from April through October. Indeed, living in the Heartland inspires some of the best creative minds, from weavers to sculptors to organic soap makers. Some venues are more renowned than others – the September St. Louis Art Fair in downtown Clayton, a national event now in its 19th year, is well known as one of the largest visual and performing arts festivals in the country. Across the river, the city of Bellevue, Illinois sponsors Art on the Square, which year after year achieves the ranking of first or second best all-around art show in the nation (according to Greg Lawler’s Art Fair SourceBook).
The Historic Shaw Art Fair, smaller and lesser-known than some of the other national and regional fairs in the area, is both older and less commercial than some of the other area events. Dogs on leashes are welcome, and because the proceeds of the Historic Shaw Art Fair benefit the Shaw Neighborhood Improvement Association, the exhibit somehow manages to extend a neighborhood welcome. In spite of the crowd, the event has the look and feel of a huge family picnic in the park. First held in 1992, the Shaw Art Fair has continued to build a reputation for hosting some of the region’s finest artists and craftspeople, a number of whom are seldom seen away from their own studios and galleries. In short, the Shaw Fair is an opportunity to meet and mingle with high caliber artists in the top echelons of their chosen media. Indeed, the judges who choose each year’s participants are that selective, and again this year they have shown no signs of backing down from their exacting standards.
In Printmaking, the Fair features six fine artists with six equally distinctive styles and methods. From the Dürer-esque etchings of C.C.Barton (Salida CO), last year's winner of the Arnold E. Boedeker Award for Painting and Printmaking, to local legend Bob Hartzell’s explosions of color and the exquisite traditional woodcuts of John Schirmer (Fairfield IA), the expertise and experience of printmakers alone could fill a small encyclopedia of printmaking techniques. Additional exhibitors in the Printmaking category are Judy Zeddies (Chicago IL), Alice Jaeger-Ashland (St. Ann MO), and Rita Troller (Orland Park IL).
Sculpture is well-represented as well, with a baker’s dozen sculptors as diverse as chalk and cheese. Julie Kradel (Cedar MI) of Fat Pony Studios brings clay animals to life with a kind of beneficent esprit that denies they are mere sculptures. Like Emily Dickinson’s verse, Kradel’s sculptures seem to breathe, exuding balance and accord. Jin and John Powell (Memphis TN), on the other hand, employ sculpture to capture movement and freeze it in time; John Powell using wood and metal and Jin Powell with her magnificent use of metal and sculpted fabric. Thomas Wargin (Menominee Falls WI), a popular artist at the St. Louis Art Fair and winner of the Historic Shaw Art Fair Best of Show Award in 2011, again has been selected to participate in the Shaw Fair. This year’s other distinguished sculptors include Anthony Slichenmyer (Olney IL), Dillon Chandler (Farmington AR), local favorites Steve Frank (St. Louis MO) and Jim Mutrux (St. Louis MO), James Harris (New Lenox IL), Pat Larson and Ken Larson (Sturgeon Lake MN), and Karen Steininger and Stephen Steininger (Altoona IA).
In the Wood and Metal category, expect to see a veritable feast of indigenous and exotic woods. The fourteen artists in this category include master craftsmen (and yes, with the exception of artist Carol Reynolds [Austin TX], this category is dominated by men), wood turners, carvers, and artisans such as the near-legendary Vic Barr of Matanda Wood Creations (St. Louis MO) and award-winning furniture maker Steve Uren (Marquette MI). Joiner Jeremy Taylor (Mattoon IL) is an expert in the nearly lost art of fine joinery. Additional exhibitors in the Wood Metal category include John Sweitzer (Champaign IL), Mark Schlabaugh (Kalona IA), Mark Reynolds (Austin TX), John Quick (Cunningham TN), Ken Nelsen (Maryville MO), David Nagel (Jackson MS), Robert Myrvall (Bark River MI), Nick Molignano (Oneonta NY), Cliff Matyszczyk (Wales WI), Steven Martin (Carterville IL), and Kevin Harrington (Jackson MS).
Further categories at the Shaw Fair include Clay, Digital Art, Drawing, Fiber Art, Glass, Jewelry, Mixed Media, Painting, and Photography. Each category features a roster of established, well-known artists that reads more like an issue of Art in America than a neighborhood art fair catalogue. Things aren't always as they seem, especially on the first weekend of October, when Flora Place beckons autumn to stay a while!
The Historic Shaw Art Fair features 135 artists from across the country, and takes place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, October 5, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, October 5, at 4100 and 4200 Flora Place, just east of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Admission is $7 and is valid for both days. For a $1 discount on admission, bring a canned food item to benefit Isaiah 58 Ministries of St. Louis.
© M.T.Erickson 2013