by Emily Dulanski
Lewiston's largest celebration of the arts returns Saturday, Aug. 14, and Sunday, Aug. 15, for its 44th year. The Lewiston Art Festival, a landmark event of the Lewiston Council on the Arts, brings together far more than just area residents. It brings together Western New Yorkers and visitors from Southern Ontario and beyond. It also brings together the visual arts, literature and music in one weekend.
"It's all about the arts," said Eva Nicklas, artistic director of the Lewiston Council on the Arts. "People around here really love that."
The festival, which this year has had to limit the number of artists participating, has applicants from near and far.
"We have the finest artists in the country," said Nicklas. "And I'm not just saying that. This is a juried show."
A vital part of any show is the audience. In order to better facilitate pedestrians attending the festival, Center Street will be closed again this year between Fourth and Eighth streets.
"The audience really loves the street closing," said Nicklas. "It makes it a much more comfortable festival for (them)."
Despite the street closing viewed as being an asset to the festival, some businesses on Center Street reported a significant loss of business during the festival last year. This is due to vehicular traffic not being able to get through and artists' tents blocking their storefronts. The LCA is attempting to compromise and adjust for this situation this year.
"This is only the second year we've tried (closing the street)," said Nicklas. "Irene (Rykaszewski, executive director of the LCA) has been bending over backwards to try to make everybody happy. We took away 22 artists to make space in front of local businesses."
Although there were cutbacks on the number of participating artists, the festival will still have the familiar events such as live music, College Alley in the Key Bank parking lot, and the popular Chalk Walk competition.
The Chalk Walk, which takes place Saturday on Fifth Street, is a competition between high school students from across the region to create a mural on the street. The theme this year is "Unity in Diversity" and the artwork must be in the graffiti style.
"The kids are going to have to be very creative," said Nicklas. "A professional graffiti artist from New York City will be doing graffiti art on the street near the Chalk Walk."
The graffiti artist, Ron "Kezam" Kramer, will be judging the Chalk Walk competition along with artists Jean Jain and Robin Faulring. The competition will be held on Saturday with judging at 4 p.m.
Another featured artist at the Lewiston Art Festival is Julie Silver. Silver, who grew up in Lewiston, has recently moved back to the area.
"We first heard of Julie Silver 10 to 12 years ago when she was the recipient of an LCA scholarship," said Nicklas. "She's become very well known not just through the nation, but worldwide."
This is Silver's first time participating in the Lewiston Art Festival, but she will be demonstrating her craft as a sculptor from noon until 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.
There are also free art activities from noon until 4 p.m. on each day. Niagara University's Castellani Art Museum will host the "Make and Take" workshop, an event for all ages to make artwork and bring it home. The First Niagara Art-Zone is also available for children of all ages to create their own artwork.
In addition to the visual arts, live music will be performed all weekend at the Hennepin Park Gazebo and the Frontier House.
"The gazebo is dedicated to all children performers," said Nicklas.
A new addition to the festival this year is the Art of Ribs, held on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. at Academy Park.
"We have partnered with the Lewiston Rotary Club for the Art of Ribs," said Nicklas. "It continues after the festival closes, and it's a real complement to the Lewiston Art Festival."
The Lewiston Art Festival is one of the highlights of the summer for many people across the region. It will be held Saturday, Aug. 14, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 15, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m."There was an amazing turnout on Saturday last year, and that's what we're expecting this year," said Nicklas. "There's lots of wonderful artwork, lots of entertainment, and lots of wonderful things to see and do."