More than 50 local artists will head to North Tonawanda to display their work at the fourth annual Oliver Street Art Festival.
Presented by the Project 308 Gallery, the festival will take place from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 12, on Oliver Street between Schenck and Robinson streets.
Featured will be artwork completed in various mediums, including painting, photography, crafts, jewelry-making and metal smith work.
Natalie Brown, manager of Project 308 Gallery and organizer of the event, explained the festival and gallery uphold a mission "to engage those who appreciate the arts, collaborate with local artists and students, and activate a renewed enthusiasm for art in the community."
Brown also said she hopes that, by bringing the community together at the festival, people "will recognize the local talent that surrounds us and will see how art can positively impact the neighborhood."
In addition to artwork, the festival will feature live music throughout the day.
Sassi Cakes dessert truck and Hawaiian BBQ food truck will be on hand. Also, attendees can enjoy a free beer sampling from Flying Bison Brewery.
An array of children's activities will be offered this year. A rock-climbing wall, sponsored by Matt Hoffman of the Academy Auction house, will be available.
"Every year the festival gets bigger and better," Hoffman said. "The festival is a very nice way to showcase of the hidden gems on Oliver Street!"
Brown said, "I really want it to be a time for people to visit Oliver Street, see it in a positive light and see all the wonderful talent that we have in the area from artists to music. I just want it to be a community effort and a low-cost event that anyone can enjoy."
The Oliver Street Merchants Association, comprised of Oliver Street business owners, will add to the event by holding a kids carnival. Volunteers of the association will offer games, prizes, popcorn and snow cones. Each game costs 25 cents to play.
Representatives of the Western New York Book Arts Center will be at the event, offering a booth where kids can make their own buttons.
Brown will offer a 50/50 raffle to raise funds for a mural to be painted by Team Razor on Oliver Street between Schenck and Robinson Street. Team Razor is a duo of local artists Christ Kameck and Nicholas Miller.
"The festival marks the fourth-year anniversary of the gallery, and I can proudly say that, not only does it get bigger every year, but the importance of the community is emphasized more each year as well," Brown said.
One way Brown is connecting the festival with the community is by displaying, in the Project 308 Gallery, a new exhibition featuring artwork by participants of the Art of Mental Health program offer through Niagara Visions PROS (personalized recovery-oriented services) under Community Missions of Niagara Frontier.
Artists of the program have been diagnosed with psychiatric disabilities and use the class to learn how they can incorporate art into their recovery process.
"We are thrilled with the opportunity to partner with Project 308 Gallery on this event," said Christian Hoffman, communications and development manager at Community Missions. "The Art for Mental Health program at Niagara Visions PROS has helped so many individuals grow over the years. The chance to see their pieces on display in a gallery will continue that growth, providing a tremendous sense of self-esteem and accomplishment for the artists. We can't wait to see it all come together!"
Sandie Crocker, the program's training coordinator, who has a teaching degree in art education and is a board-certified art therapist, said participants of the program have held art shows in the past, and "It builds a lot of self-esteem and confidence in people."
Crocker explained, "Therapy with art isn't necessarily dependent on how well a person draws or the talent that they have. It's because of them going through a process and it may be for self-exploration, self-awareness; it may be that they're struggling with one point in their life and we may center and focus specifically on that. It may be for just stress reduction."
She added, "Art therapy can do a lot in their lives and it enhances whatever they're working on in the program."
Along with art therapy, the Niagara Visions PROS program also offers additional services for those diagnosed with mental illness, including access to a clinic, psychiatrists, as well as other skill-building services to provide assistance with nutrition, budgeting and social skills.
Overall, the program assists people in achieving their goals, "whether it's living independently or attending college or making other steps in life," Crocker said.
The exhibition will be on display through the month of August.
An opening exhibition night will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9, at the gallery. It will be "a chance for them (the artists) to gain confidence, self-esteem and be proud of how far they've come," Brown said. "And then on the other end for the public to see that artwork. I hope it shows that art is a wonderful way to express yourself and get through some really tough times. I hope that everybody is impressed by the work that these folks have been doing."
Tribune Editor Lauren Zaepfel contributed to this report.
Shown is artwork by members of Niagara Visions PROS, under Community Missions of Niagara Frontier.