At this weekend's Lewiston Art Festival, life will imitate art and the environment will benefit.
This summer's event gives an artist-in-residency spotlight to Native American artists Simon Brascoupe, Rosemary Hill and Karen Hodge-Russell. Their combined exhibit, which will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, demonstrates traditions in Native American arts and heritage -- particularly, a deep respect for nature. The artists will use prehistoric techniques and local medicinal plants in their designs and demonstrations.
The exhibit "is all based on traditional teachings," said Brascoupe. His printmaking work will center on the maple tree, which he said is treasured in Native American culture for its medicinal qualities.
However, the artists do not wish to merely honor the teachings of the past. They also hope to apply those teachings to today's environment.
"Through our art, we try to incorporate the idea of sustainability," Brascoupe said, adding that whenever he participates in an art festival, he talks to the supervisors "about trying to go green."
Hodge-Russell, whose "Flying Frog Comb" was selected as the festival's image for 2012 and who will demonstrate weaving techniques, also stressed the educational purpose of the artwork. "The three of us, being native people and being very concerned about the direction that everything [in the environment] is going, try to keep everything green," she said. She saw the festival as "a great opportunity to put forth that kind of knowledge in workshops and art."
It was a lesson the festival's organizers noted.
For the first time in its 46 years, the festival, which runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday along Center Street, will follow the trend of many other festivals nationwide and transition toward going green.
Through new recycling services, informational signs and even a few themed art activities, there will be an increased emphasis on reusing and composting the waste produced by the festival.
For years, there were discussions of how to cut back on the festival's environmental footprint, said Irene Rykaszewski, executive director of the Lewiston Council on the Arts. "It was time to start becoming a little more conscious of the impact the festival has on the village and the environment," she said, adding that this is the "first time we could make it all happen." With the help of Modern Corporation, a waste disposal company headquartered near Lewiston, and Sunnking, an electronics recycling company in Lancaster, the festival was finally able to implement green initiatives.
But it's no surprise that the festival was also inspired by some of its own artists.
While planning green initiatives, "we were inspired by the Native American traditions, in which they have a great reverence and respect for the environment," said Rykaszewski. "We were talking about nature themes and Native American themes while simultaneously working to go green. It all came together this year."
"We hope to inspire others the way we were inspired," said Eva Nicklas, artistic director of the Lewiston Council on the Arts.
Sustainable practices will be exemplified in several other ways. Modern Corporation is donating recycling containers, composting services and educational volunteers. Sunnking will contribute parts of computers, cell phones, video games, televisions and other electronics for the Modern ArtZone, a new hands-on activity in which visitors can make art out of discarded materials.
Beyond these changes, the festival, which features almost 200 artists from across the country, will otherwise retain all the traditions for which it is known. These include College Alley, a venue for high school and college artists; a variety of street musicians and performers appearing throughout both days; and the KeyBank Chalk Walk competition, where 12 teams of student artists create chalk murals interpreting this year's theme, "Diversity Is ..." Nicklas said the Chalk Walk is "the highlight of the festival," and she's excited to see how the young artists tackle the "tough theme."
"It's like the title says: Diversity is what?" she asked. "We'll have to see what they come up with."
A snapshot of the art fest
Works created by close to 200 professional and student artists from 13 states and Canada will highlight this weekend's Lewiston Art Festival. The 46th annual event runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the Village of Lewiston. Traffic will be closed off along Center Street from Fourth to Eighth streets allowing pedestrians to walk freely among the booths where they can peruse and purchase art, jewelry, photography, ceramics and much more. There will also be plenty of food and entertainment.
Here's a quick look:
*ChalkWalk, noon to 5 p.m. Saturday at Fifth and Center streets. Approximately 12 teams of students will participate in this popular competition. The public picks the winner by putting a quarter in the cup of their favorite team.
*Modern ArtZone, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, in front of St. Peter's Church, Center near Sixth Street. Kids can make hands-on artwork out of discarded materials.
*Make & Take Workshops, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in front of the Tuscarora and Friends Gallery (736 Center St.). Kids and adults can make their own art with the help of the artists-in-residence, Simon Brascoupe, Rosemary Hill and Karen Hodge-Russell.
*College Alley, Fifth Street. This separate area showcases work created by about 25 college students.
*Entertainment. In addition to strolling street musicians the Barroom Buzzards and the Old Hippies, there's a diverse lineup of entertainment at the Gazebo (Fourth and Center streets) including award-winning contemporary Native American rocker Tonemah, young opera star Jena Abati, Ilya's Belly Dance Studio, Niagara Experience Players, Hot Country Liners, Dale Campbell, Julie Patel, Niagara Frontier Fiddle Club, Lubbecke Brass Ensemble, Lewiston Choraleers and Squeezebox Johnny.