LEWISTON – More than 175 artists from 13 states will display their works at this year’s annual Lewiston Art Festival from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and next Sunday on Center Street.
“What makes our festival unique is its size. We have approximately 200 vendors, so it’s a very nice walkable festival,” said Irene Rykaszewski, executive director of the Lewiston Council on the Arts, which sponsors the event.
She said the pedestrian-friendly event is large, but not too large, which allows visitors to see all of the artists in a few hours. Center Street will be closed between Fourth and Eighth streets, which also makes for a nice walking experience, she said.
“There’s a kind of family vibe with street musicians, and there’s things that will interest kids of all ages,” she said.
She said it is hard to know exactly how many people turn out for the show, but it has been estimated that about 15,000 attend over the weekend each year.
In addition to the art, there are pockets of free music throughout the festival and a number of food vendors.
“We try not to compete with all the wonderful restaurants we have in Lewiston. I also try to be fairly selective in what food vendors we offer so we don’t overlap,” she said.
But the focus is on the art.
Artists, who are picked by a jury to participate, compete for prize money awarded in a number of categories, including painting, photography, graphic arts, sculpture, crafts and jewelry.
Modern Corp. co-sponsors the Modern Art Awards, totaling more than $5,000.
“We do turn away, because we don’t have room, about 25 percent of the applicants,” Rykaszewski said. “That doesn’t mean that their work isn’t good enough, but we can afford to be selective. We do include crafts, but we don’t have country crafts. Our crafts are really more artistic crafts, like wood or ceramics. We do get really good quality crafts.”
In addition to notable professional artists, students are encouraged to participate in the festival’s “College Alley,” while high school students participate in the annual Key Bank Chalk Walk, competing for prizes sponsored by the bank.
“It has always been a priority to bring up the next generation of artists, to give emerging artists the opportunity to get the experience about being part of a professional show without necessarily having a professional setup or the stress of having to go through the jury process,” Rykaszewski said. “It’s really a great learning experience for the students.”
She said other festivals are following Lewiston’s lead and providing opportunities for students as well.
For a second year, the festival will strive to be environmentally friendly, with organizers stepping up recycling and composting efforts at the event.
This year food vendors on the streets as well as village businesses will be encouraged to use compostable service ware. Plates, napkins, and food waste will be collected and processed into compost and bottles and cans will be recycled.
To emphasize the theme of recycling and reuse, the Modern ArtZone will offer a free hands-on art activity area, which will focus on creating decorative fish from discarded plastic soda bottles.
Sunnking Electronics is bringing back the popular E-bot, the robot that was created with recycled materials from the scrap heap.
This year’s T-shirt and brochure design was inspired by Gene Kulbago’s stained glass piece, “Life Giver.” Kathryn Serianni of Cataract Printing modified the digital design.
“Artists do talk to each other and talk about festivals they’ve had a good experience at, so I think a lot of artists come to us from word of mouth,” Rykaszewski said.
She said in the last 30 years, the festival has grown along with the village. She said it was kick-started as the arts council became more active in the community, doing more than just the art festival.
“I think that inspired other communities,” Rykaszewski said. “We are always looking for new things to keep it fresh. Lewiston has turned into an amazing community to live in.”