On the face of it, Art in the Wilds seems like a risky proposition.
Sending fine art into the great outdoors is a little bit like telling a 5-year-old to go play in the park while wearing their Sunday finest — which is still an infinitely better idea than dragging that same child to a crowded indoor gallery.
Art in the Wilds aims to be a happy compromise, a place where people can peruse white tents full of paintings, photography, jewelery and other fine goods while indulging in the fresh air and open spaces of Evergreen Park in Kane. Tents will be open for shopping this weekend from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday — and don’t be afraid to take the kids.
“It’s family oriented. It’s a lot easier to bring kids to the park and get them to appreciate the art than it is to take them into a gallery,” Marilyn Blackmore, director and president of Arts in the Wilds, said.
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In 2006, Blackmore, a retired first-grade teacher, was sitting on a porch with a few friends when they decided it would be nice if there was a local outdoor arts festival where people from in and around town could gather and enjoy the park.
After accruing a little seed money and researching other arts festivals, the group went to work.
What was once a casual meeting among friends has become a 15-person committee of volunteers who meet and plan throughout the year. It’s a massive undertaking that includes everything from arranging for food to selecting the vendors and craftsmen who will populate the park.
By the beginning of March, each artisan has submitted photos of their work and wares that are evaluated by a panel of jurists who have degrees in the fine arts.
This year’s Art in the Wilds will feature 37 artists crafting in mediums such as porcelain, hand-forged ironwork and pottery. Students from around the the area are also given the opportunity to exhibit — but not sell — their work, a chance for them to dip their toes in the paint of the professional art scene.
“We try to make sure that we have a nice mix of media,” Blackmore said.
On Sunday, there also will be demonstrations in the park’s gazebo, where Dan Hayward will display the tools he uses for working with functional fused and stained glass and Peggy Houser examines the finer points of bead weaving and embroidery.
Live music will make an appearance from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, courtesy of local band Coyote Moon.
It’s a little something for everyone, a strategy that seems to be working.
Blackmore estimates that 6,000 people will attend this year’s festival, a daunting number — but at least they’ll have something to eat.
Shoppers can chose from a selection of snacks and entrees that ranges from refined fare like crabcakes to actual fair food in the shape of kettle corn and funnel cakes. Homemade ice cream will also be available to those who save room for dessert.
Blackmore originally conceived of all of this as something to keep her busy post retirement, never imagining that it would grow into such a massive undertaking. Her house is full of art from previous shows, but the most rewarding part of her job is something that can’t be hung on a wall.
“My favorite part is standing back and watching it all happen and come together,” Blackmore said.