One-of-a-kind wares on display at arts fest

cmccracken@centredaily.comJuly 10, 2014 

— As artists from across the country set up their tents for the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, eager customers roamed the downtown streets, standing by until the crafts were fully displayed and ready for sale.

Gloria McRoberts, of Watertown, Tenn., is a first-time vendor at the arts festival, but is no stranger to festivals in general.

“From here I’m going to Guilford, Connecticut,” McRoberts said. “In the winter I do some shows in Florida, then Ohio. I go to places that I want to visit, you know, fun places. I do maybe 10 or 12 a year.”

McRoberts first developed her passion for 3-D sculptural weaving by chance in 1992.

“I was an art teacher and they asked me to teach weaving,” McRoberts said. “I never had a weaving class. I knew nothing; I had no background. I was a glass artist; that’s what I was trained in. So this is just a made-up technique.”

McRoberts’ work is unprecedented.

“Well, it is unique; there’s nobody else in the world doing what I do because it’s totally out of my head,” McRoberts said. “I know that nobody else has developed this work the way mine was developed, and all my pieces are copyrighted.”

Not only are McRoberts’ designs inspired by nature, but the materials she uses are all natural.

“I switched to all-natural wool; nothing is dyed,” McRoberts said. “This is all the color of sheep, alpaca and goats.”

Hayley Nolte, of Philipsburg, Mont., said she also believes in using simple materials for her artwork.

“We use all recycled metals,” Nolte said. “We use tin cans from cookies, candies, popcorn, any kind of decorative metals.”

Nolte’s work was inspired by her childhood experiences.

“I grew up in South Africa, where artisans make all this brilliant stuff from trash,” Nolte said. “They use telephone wires and tires and whatever they can get their hands on, so I grew up with them as my role models, my examples.”

For artist John Hovenstine, of Philipsburg, the festival is partially about displaying his digital illustrations, but also about the festivalgoers.

“My art makes people smile when they come in and I like that a lot. I like being out among the crowd and meeting new people; it’s a lot of fun,” Hovenstine said. “I just jumped back into it; this is my first show in 35 years. It’s been a lot of fun so far.”

Bill Ryan, of State College, is a crucial part of the festival, charged with cleaning up after the 100,000 visitors.

Wearing a modest green T-shirt displaying the volunteers’ slogan, “The Proud, The Few, The Green Crew,” Ryan blended into the crowd comfortably, changing trash bags instinctively.

“I’ve been volunteering for the festival for 12 years, and then the last five years I’ve been in charge,” Ryan said. “What I like is that I see different people every day, working with me, and most of them are really interesting people. Also, I see people on the street that I don’t always see, which is fun.”

Beginning this year, the 150 volunteers of the Green Crew have committed to a three-year plan to transform the festival into a zero-landfill waste event.

“We used to be the Trash Crew,” Ryan said, “but now what they’re trying to do is have less trash and more recyclables, so we’re the Green Crew.”

Gina Michael, of State College, is an Arts Fest veteran; she has been attending the festival as a patron since it began in 1967.

“I like the different artists,” Michael said. “You see so many original things, and at this festival, the quality of the work is very high.”

The festival will continue through Sunday, ending at 5 p.m.

 

Casey McCracken can be reached at 231-4646. Follow her on Twitter @CMcCrackenNews.

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