Lewiston's reputation as a thriving arts community and cultural epicenter is due in no small part to the annual Lewiston Art Festival. Now in it's 46th year, the festival has been named one of the "Top Cultural Destinations" by First Sunday Magazine; a "Summer Festival Showcase Event" by Bi-National Niagara Tourism Alliance; and one of the "Top 100 Attractions Along the Seaway Trail" by Journey Magazine.
On Aug. 11 and 12, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., this prestigious event will showcase the work of more than 175 professional and student artists from 13 states (as far away as Alaska). Artists will compete for prize money awarded in eight categories, including painting, photography, graphic arts, sculpture, artistic crafts (ceramics, wood, fiber, glass) and jewelry. Modern Corporation co-sponsors the "Modern Art Awards," which total more than $5,000.
On Saturday, watch the chalk fly as 12 teams of talented high school student artists represent schools from across the region in the KeyBank parking lot for the KeyBank Chalk Walk competition. Spectacular murals will depict this year's culturally significant theme: "Diversity is ...". Teams will compete for "Arts Are Key" awards, sponsored by KeyBank. Spectators can cast a vote for the People's Choice Award. Judging takes place about 4 p.m. on Saturday.
In keeping with our commitment to foster the development of young artists, College Alley will again feature the work of 23 high school and college students on North and South Fifth Street. College Alley provides these artists with an opportunity to gain exhibiting experience without adhering to the more stringent requirements for professional artists.
A special addition to the 2012 Art Festival is a weekend-long residency for three well-known Native American artists: Rosemary Hill, Simon Brascoupé and Karen Hodge Russell.
"Art Inspired by our Ancestors" is the theme for exhibits, demonstrations and art activities at 732 Center St., outside the Tuscarora & Friends Gallery at the Lewiston Opera Hall. All activities will incorporate Native medicinal plant designs.
Hill was born and raised on the Tuscarora Reservation and is internationally known for her Tuscarora beadwork. She has exhibited, demonstrated and taught this traditional folk art internationally, and her work is found in museums and private collections in the U.S., Canada and Europe. She will demonstrate traditional Tuscarora beading using native plant designs.
Hodge Russell (Mik'Maq, Acadian) is a retired art teacher, fiber artist and printmaker. She will demonstrate weaving of a fiber piece on a traditional loom using local dyes and found materials. She will also lead a free, hands-on activity creating woven sculpture pieces on a branch frame, using natural and found materials.
Brascoupé is Tuscarora, Algonquin and Mohawk, and grew up on the Tuscarora Nation. He is a printmaker who uses traditional stencil (pochoir) techniques on canvas in his artwork. He and Hodge Russell have adapted this prehistoric technique to make it possible for people of all ability levels to create crisp, vivid prints in colorful traditional designs. Participants will create simple, beautiful prints on paper using his designs of native medicinal plants. Special art pieces created for the festival will also be on exhibit.
"It is wonderful to have artists of this caliber on hand to share their traditional native culture with the public," said Irene Rykaszewski, executive director of the Lewiston Council on the Arts. The residencies were sponsored in part with a grant from the Arts Niagara Decentralization program, a regrant program from the New York State Council on the Arts administered through the Tonawandas Art Council and the Carnegie Art Center.
Inspired by Native American reverence for nature and the environment, organizers this year have made a commitment to transition the Art Festival to be more "green."
"Recycling and food scraps composting is coming to the 2012 festival to lighten its environmental impact. Recycling reduces energy and natural resources used, and composting returns nutrients to soil naturally and improves soil structure. Both reduce waste at existing landfills," said Katy Duggan-Haas, the event's sustainability coordinator.
Modern Recycling will donate recycling and composting services to this year's Art Festival for this pilot program. Participating will be possible with collection containers placed next to trash containers for the convenience of festivalgoers. Modern employees will volunteer their time to guide the public in correctly discarding bottles, cans, plastics, food scraps and paper for recycling and composting.
To emphasize the theme of recycling and reuse, the Modern ArtZone, a free hands-on art activity area, will focus on creating art from discarded materials from noon to 4 p.m. each day of the festival. Thanks to Richard Pope, Niagara County Refuse Disposal District director, Sunnking Electronics Recycling donated elements of disassembled electronic devices for the activity. Sunnking is the first R2 (responsible recycling) certified facility in New York, and recycles all devices, including computers, cell phones, video games, copiers and TVs. Also on hand will be a robot built from recycled components.
Don't forget to visit the information booth at Fifth and Center streets to pick up this year's colorful Art Festival T-shirt, which features the new design "Flying Frog Comb" by Hodge Russell. Nontraditional fibers were used in a traditional Canadian maritime rug hooking technique to create the piece.
Street musicians and performers are welcome to add their musical ambiance to the show.
Art Festival sponsors include Modern Corporation, KeyBank, Mount St. Mary's Hospital, Tin Pan Alley, the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission and Arts Niagara Decentralization program.