Lewiston's reputation as a thriving arts community and cultural epicenter is due in no small part to the annual Lewiston Art Festival. It has been hailed as one of the "Top Cultural Destinations" by First Sunday Magazine, a "Summer Festival Showcase Event" by the Bi-National Niagara Tourism Alliance and numbered amongst the "Top 100 Attractions Along the Seaway Trail" by Journey Magazine.
The Art Festival, now in its 49th year, is organized and carried out by the Lewiston Council on the Arts.
"The impact of the arts in Lewiston includes economic, social and cultural benefits. It's a large part of how we define ourselves as a community, and it's what makes this such a vibrant place to live," LCA Executive Director Irene Rykaszewski said.
Jennifer Pauly, president of the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce, added, "The Lewiston Art Festival is one of the largest festivals in Lewiston and provides something for everyone. Our community has a deep appreciation of the arts."
She said the River Region is "fortunate" to have the LCA's event "promote and develop programs and events to showcase this village.
"The business community benefits from the influx of visitors for the festival over the two-day event and are appreciative of the increase in business the festival provides."
From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 8-9, this prestigious event will showcase the work of more than 175 professional and student artists from 13 states (including Alaska, Florida and Texas). Artists will compete for ribbons and prize money. Modern Corp. co-sponsors the "Modern Art Awards," which total more than $5,000.
"All I can say is, throughout my career as an artist and the many shows I've done - gallery and art festivals - the Lewiston Art Festival is the most artist-friendly and accommodating art festival I've ever done," Geoffrey Harding said. "Besides, the staff are wonderful, upbeat and very helpful. I look forward every year in participating in the festival."
"The Lewiston Art Festival is the only outdoor festival I am doing this year," Kathleen Giles said. "The organizers are a great group, and my husband I enjoy the breakfast they put on for the exhibiting artists. The crowds that come are always classy and supportive."
Returning this year is what the LCA calls a "pedestrian-friendly" layout. Center Street will be closed from Fourth to Eighth streets, as will Fifth Street (from Center Street to the banks), allowing guests to walk back and forth between the art displays and local shops.
On Saturday, watch the chalk fly as 16 teams of student artists representing schools from across the region converge for the ever-popular KeyBank Chalk Walk Competition. Budding creators will be asked to create a 9-foot diameter coin in the trompe-l'oeil style. Teams will compete for "Arts Are Key" awards, sponsored by KeyBank.
The Chalk Walk
Judges will select the top squads at 4 p.m. The audience will decide the "People's Choice" winner. Moreover, John and Vicki Fuerch of Antique to Chic - coin collectors for more than 30 years - have offered to gift an antique silver coin to the top prizewinners in this year's Chalk Walk.
In keeping with the LCA's commitment to foster the development of young artists, College Alley will again feature the work of high school and college students in the Frontier House parking lot. Here, artists gain exhibiting experience without adhering to the more stringent requirements professionals encounter.
In an effort to decrease the festival's environmental impact on the historic village, organizers are stepping up recycling and composting efforts. This year, food vendors on the street, as well as businesses, will be encouraged to use compostable serviceware. Plates, napkins and food waste will be collected and processed into compost, in addition to bottle and can recycling.
Modern Recycling will donate recycling and composting services, and Green Team volunteers will encourage and assist festivalgoers in the process.
"Modern is pleased with the leadership shown by the Lewiston Art Council in moving forward the green initiatives, and is excited about the opportunity to take the recycling program to the next level," sustainability coordinator Katy Duggan-Haas said. "By composting food-related waste, we can help bring back the beauty of nature by creating soil that may help a flower to bloom."
"It's fun to work at an event that showcases high-quality art, has a strong commitment to environmental preservation - and my kids want to attend, too," Giles said.
"We are very proud to partner with Modern Recycling in continuing our efforts to reduce the environmental impact of the festival," Rykaszewski said.
To emphasize the theme of recycling and reuse, the Modern ArtZone, a free hands-on art activity area, will focus on creating decorative fish from discarded plastic soda bottles.
Artist Kristen Raimondi will provide lessons this year.
Channel your inner Monet and come paint among the artists in the courtyard/Peace Garden next to the Frontier House. Instructor Kristen Raimondi will guide you through a creative, colorful and fun painting experience at 2 p.m. Saturday. All canvases, paints and supplies will be provided. The cost is $15 per person.
The information booth at Fifth and Center streets will have more event information and this year's Art Festival T-shirt, which was inspired by artist Suzanne Todaro's stained-glass piece "Beams."
Throughout the weekend, musicians will be scattered about and businesses will offer special sales.
"The Art Festival is definitely a mission-driven event for our organization. It provides us with an opportunity to connect artists with buyers, to encourage public participation in the arts and, of course, to give visitors a reason to come and enjoy everything that Lewiston has to offer ... and hopefully to keep coming back," Rykaszewski said.
Reminder: The street closings mentioned in this article are effective from 5 a.m. Saturday until 9 p.m. Sunday. Bank customers will still have access to the drive-thru areas. Call 716-754-0166 for additional details.
The Art Festival layout