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Marquette Wire

Third Ward Art Festival offers over 140 booths

Photo by Kate Holstein
The Third Ward Art Festival featured over 140 booths of unique artwork.

The seventh annual Third Ward Art Festival, held last weekend, showcased more than 140 artists from all over the country selling a wide variety of artwork. Along with visiting the many booths positioned along Broadway, festival attendees enjoyed the sunny, mild fall weather, live music and food and drink.

Each booth had a unique array of creations, including jewelry, paintings, sculptures, mixed media, photography, furniture and more. Artists traveled from all over the country to put their work on display and interact with potential customers and curious onlookers.

Tess Grimes, a sophomore in the College of Health Sciences, walked to the art fair on Saturday with a group of friends.

Not interested in buying any art, Grimes went to look at the art and appreciate the atmosphere. She thought the experience was preferable to visiting an art museum in the sense that while an art museum might just display one or two pieces by a single artist, attending the festival allowed Grimes to see a variety of pieces by each artist, and additionally speak with them.

“I thought it was really cool that… the artists were actually most of the time present in their little tents,” Grimes said. “It was nice to have them right there and like be able to talk to them.”

One such artist eager to speak to customers and share her story was Susan Richter O’Connell.  Prior to being a jewelry artist, Richter O’Connell was a dancer. Twenty-eight years ago when she began having children, she sought a career shift to allow her to spend more time at home. Jewelry-making allowed her to do just that and continue to explore a creative passion.

“I work primarily with beach stones and other organic material,” Richter O’Connell said. “I started making jewelry because I collected those materials and wanted to find a way of having them with me instead of just in piles in my house.”

Living just four blocks away from Lake Michigan, Richter O’Connell collects most of her materials from the beach. In addition, she takes an annual trip to Lake Superior and collects rocks there, which differ from the varieties found around Lake Michigan.

While Richter O’Connell sells her jewelry at 3rd Ward Jewelry, this year was her first time with a booth at the Third Ward Art Festival. Attending the art fair this year gave her a way to meet her customers.

For many of the artists, Milwaukee’s Third Ward Art Festival was just one of many stops across the country.

“We do a lot of shows, so last weekend we were in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. We’ll do this one this weekend, and then next weekend we’ll be in Durango, Colorado on our way home,” Vicki Bolen, a paper artist from Albuquerque, New Mexico, said. “We do that all year, make little tours and see a lot of things.”

Bolen sells a wide variety of paper creations, but her booth at the art festival focused primarily on framed paper textile art and weather-resistant origami crane mobiles. Her cranes are hand-painted, folded and wired. Bolen said the cranes represent peace, with a similar purpose to a prayer flag, to send peace into the world and bring peace into one’s home.

From Oakland, California came Rob Nehring. Nehring sold sculptures of characters built from scrap metal. Incorporating humor with his creative resources, Nehring’s whimsical, eclectic creations caught the interest of many festival-goers.

“I look for a piece of metal, and if I like it, I’ll take it, and then I’ll look at it for a while and decide what it might become,” Nehring said. Pieces of fire extinguishers, gaskets, gears, springs and bolts were transformed into things like hair, bowties, hats and skateboards for Nehring’s sculptures.

After starting his business Rusty Noodle Studios in 2009, Nehring began selling his art full time just two months ago. In the past five weeks, he attended five different art fairs.

Steve Wagner, a watercolor artist, also attends art festivals nearly every weekend during the summer months. Originally from Wisconsin, Wagner studied craft design at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Now Wagner travels from fair to fair selling his watercolor pieces, which depict overlapping shapes of figures of animals in an attempt to “catch some of their energy and spirit,” Wagner said.

Connecticut artist Rich Borden’s booth drew a particularly large crowd of onlookers as he gave a demonstration. Borden’s company Shibumi Silks allows customers to dye their own silk scarves through a process known as water marbling. Borden sells the silk materials dyed during art fair demonstrations, and provides an open studio for customers that want to do the process themselves. Borden has been traveling to art shows across the country for around 10 years.

Originally from Argentina but now based in Brooklyn, Esteban Krenchuzky sold abstract paintings and collages of photographs transferred to canvas. Local artist Hal Koenig’s realistic oil paintings displayed recognizable locations around Milwaukee. And Florida-based artist Cheryl Ward provided natural, organic and abstract artwork with her framed hand-painted cattail reeds.

Although the festival was only two days, it hosted far more artists and creations than one could adequately appreciate in that amount of time. The Third Ward Art Festival may have wrapped up for this year, but for many of the featured artists, a long tour of more opportunities to show their art awaits.

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