VACI Partners and the artists included in the Art in the Park sale are doing an anti-rain dance this year. And this is not just because of how rainy the past two weeks have been; rather, during last year’s art sale, it rained so hard even the fused glass under Wendy Cohen’s tent got wet and Sean Huntington lost one of his watercolor paintings.
Art in the Park takes place twice each season in Miller Park. More than 60 artists set up their handmade crafts on tables and tents to sell to the community. This year, Art in the Park takes place from noon to 4:30 p.m. Sunday and again on Aug. 4. This year marks the first time the sale has taken place on the Fourth of July weekend.
Cathy Digel and Kenny Koblitz, both members of the Partners, are co-managing Art in the Park this year. Because of all the rain in years past, they decided to lower the registration fee associated with bringing a tent. It will be a bit of an experiment space-wise; normally, six or seven people bring tents to Art in the Park, whereas this year about 30 people will bring tents. They do not have the option of rescheduling because “every single minute here at the Institution is packed,” Digel said.
The registration money funds student scholarships for the Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution’s School of Art, while artists keep the proceeds from selling their wares. Everyone can exhibit in the show, from students to professional artists to kids, who usually share a table with an older relative.
“It’s a very democratic show,” Digel said. “I like the fact that anybody who wants to participate in our show can do that. Many times, the people who are in our shows are in juried shows elsewhere, but we have no acceptance process.”
Cohen has sold her glass work at the Art in the Park event for at least five years. She makes jewelry, coasters, plates and this year added Christmas ornaments to her inventory. Cohen gets a lot of repeat customers who often greet her with things like, “Oh, I bought your yellow bowl last year, I’m so glad to see you back here.”
She will have two tables and a tent this year. One table, which she will manage, will display small items such as jewelry.
“Then I’ve trained my husband to stand behind the table with the larger goods like plates and bowls,” Cohen said, “the things he won’t have to explain like I might explain the fit of the jewelry or how you could wear it.”
Digel said she loves to shop for jewelry at Art in the Park, but her biggest indulgence is the ceramics produced by the School of Art students. More of these students will sell work at the second Art in the Park event of the season, as they will have had more time to prepare. Last year, Digel also bought three of Huntington’s semi-abstract watercolor paintings. He paints what look like photographic negatives of largely leafless trees.
Huntington, who’s sold work through Art in the Park since 2006, feels happy with the sale’s increase in popularity throughout the past few years. Art in the Park used to be a low-key event with no advertising. While Digel coordinates the sale with the artists, gets to know their work and manages their registration process, Koblitz works the marketing angle. He produces flyers and sandwich boards to place throughout the Institution and the surrounding area.
“It’s not a big surprise anymore,” Huntington said. “We don’t just get people who are walking by [Miller Bell Tower] and happen to see us.”
Huntington will set up his work under a tent this year, as will returning artist Ron Nasca. Nasca makes pots, mugs, bowls and plates and has sold them at Art in the Park for the past six years. He uses a wood firing method with soda ash on some pieces and an electronic firing method on others, which he describes as a little less earthy-looking. He makes his own glazes and said to look out for his signature color, “Toad House Blue.”
A big draw for Nasca and Huntington to participate in Art in the Park is the people. Both said the people who help organize the event and the people who shop are all very pleasant.
“It’s the nicest, most art-appreciating and knowledgeable crowd you can get in the region,” Huntington said, “Plus, it’s a nice day by the lake.”