By Isabella Casilio
Lewiston owes its reputation for being a thriving arts community to the annual Lewiston Art Festival. Sponsored by Lewiston Council on the Arts and now in its 51st year, the festival has been named top cultural destination/summer festival showcase event by a handful of national publications.
"The art festival has been the jewel and the crown of festivals in Lewiston for 51 years now," said Eva Nicklas, the artistic director of the LCA.
This festival, which normally attracts 15,000 to 20,000 visitors each year, will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 12-13. It will showcase the work of more than 175 professional artists, 30 of them new to this event, plus student artists from 13 states as far away as Alaska, Florida and Texas. This festival will feature more than 20,000 original works of art and has artists who will compete for prize money awarded in categories including: painting, photography, graphic arts, sculpture, artistic crafts, ceramics, wood, fiber, glass and jewelry.
"It just feels very relaxed and is a good experience for both vendors and audience members that come out," said Irene Rykaszewski, executive director of the LCA.
Each year, a panel of artists and educators sits down and reviews applications it has received from professional artists. Applicants send images and samples of their work to show their talent and skill. The panel then decides what artists will be featured in the show, with a main goal to showcase the best artists possible.
"We pride ourselves in being artist friendly, so we try to make sure the artists have a good experience," Rykaszewski said.
Back this year is the pedestrian-friendly layout that will close Center Street to cars from Fourth to Eighth streets, and will fill the village streets with art and music.
Doug Mess has created the logo for this year's Lewiston Art Festival T-shirt.
From noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, visitors can watch as 13 teams of three student artists create murals on the street with chalk and represent their schools from across the region for the 33rd annual KeyBank Chalk Walk Competition. The challenge this year is to create a mural using the theme "Interconnectedness."
The idea for this theme was taken from what is occurring around us politically this year, Rykaszewski said.
"There seems to be a lot of division, and we thought about how we could get students to think about not what divides everyone, but what is common to everybody and how we are all connected," Rykaszewski explained.
Visitors get to be the judges for the Chalk Walk's People's Choice Award, receiving the opportunity to vote for their favorite mural. Judging takes place at 4 p.m. Saturday.
KeyBank, Mount St. Mary's Hospital and DiMino Tops Lewiston sponsor the KeyBank Chalk Walk Competition.
In keeping with the LCA commitment to foster the development of young artists, College Alley in the Frontier House parking lot will feature the work of high school and college students. It will provide them with an opportunity to gain exhibiting experience without adhering to the more strict requirements for professional artists. College Alley students are also eligible to submit what they feel is their best work and compete against professional artists for prize money in different categories.
College Alley has been a part of the festival for over 20 years and aims to benefit young artists and show them a professional environment.
"The main focus is the artist; we try not to do a lot of things you might get at a fairgrounds or at other events where they aren't so focused on the artwork. We don't want a lot of things going on that distracts from the art," Rykaszewski said.
A series of "Art Carts" have been decorated by students from Lewiston-Porter High School and Lewiston artist Thomas P. Asklar's fourth-grade art club students at Country Parkway School. The carts will all be on display at the festival and will encourage everyone to do their part for the environment by learning to re-use and recycle.
The Lewiston Public Library will sponsor a free, hands-on art puppet activity that kids will be able to take home with them. In the Modern ArtZone, the tent will feature face-painting by a real artist. The tent will be located across from the gazebo at the corner of Fourth and Center streets.
Also, guests are welcome to visit the information booth at Fifth and Center streets to pick up this year's Art Festival T-shirt. The 2017 image was designed by local artist Doug Mess to commemorate the 51st Art Festival. Mess will be exhibiting his award-winning paintings. He will be located at spot No. 607.
The Lewiston Peace Garden, at 432 Center St., provides a quiet respite for tired feet and shows the progress being made on a public art mural by Asklar. Street musicians, entertainers and performers will add their musical ambiance to the show and provide a welcoming atmosphere on the street.
"It's a beautiful weekend and is a walkable festival that isn't gigantic; you are able to walk it in a day and see everything. You can also stop in at the local restaurants and have a nice meal. It's just a really nice way to spend a weekend," Nicklas said.
Art Festival sponsors include: Modern Recycling, KeyBank, Mount St. Mary's Hospital, Tops of Lewiston, Tin Pan Alley, Niagara Falls Bridge Commission and The Silo Restaurant. Modern Corp. co-sponsors the "Modern Art Awards," which total more than $5,000.
ART FESTIVAL MAP
Niagara County Legislator Rebecca Wydysh, left, stands with Lewiston Council on the Arts Artistic Director Eva Nicklas.
Niagara County supports 'greening' of Art Festival
Lewiston Council on the Arts Artistic Director Eva Nicklas recently met with 2nd District Niagara County Legislator Rebecca Wydysh to express thanks for the legislature's support. Nicklas also was there to share information about the "greening" of Lewiston during the 51st annual Lewiston Art Festival, set for Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 12-13.
The LCA - which sponsors the festival - and Modern Recycling will once again encourage attendees to recycle at the event. Center Street stations will remind patrons to be mindful about trash disposal and recycling.
As part of last year's Art Festival, 760 pounds of recyclables were diverted from the waste stream.
In addition, food vendors officially associated with the festival are prohibited from using any Styrofoam serviceware.
"Niagara County certainly commends the Lewiston Council on the Arts for their efforts to reduce the environmental impact of their festival, and I encourage other organizations to follow their lead," Wydysh said. "Their initiatives give thousands of visitors the opportunity to help keep our community clean while enjoying the event, and also teaches them about recycling efforts in the process. Hopefully, they will take these ideas home with them and continue to 'go green' in their everyday lives."