Weekender

Art in the Wilds to celebrate 10 years

Stacie Johnson-Leske demonstrates potting at her booth during Art in the Wilds.
Stacie Johnson-Leske demonstrates potting at her booth during Art in the Wilds. Photo provided

With the summer solstice now in the rearview mirror, a signature staple of the season can finally begin: art festivals. On June 25-26, Evergreen Park in Kane will host the 10th annual Art in the Wilds showcase.

Featuring dozens of local and traveling artisans, this year’s event hopes to build upon the strong foundation of art appreciation that has come to define Art in the Wilds for the past decade.

“Our initial plans for the festival 10 years ago was to provide a place for artists to display and sell their work, provide an event for families to attend, and to also add to the economic development of the area,” Executive Director Marilyn Blackmore said. “During that first year, I don’t think I ever once thought about what to expect 10 years down the road. All of our efforts have always been focused on the year at hand.

“However, after all of the planning, there’s no better feeling than sitting down and taking a look at the festival and thinking to yourself, ‘Holy smokes, did we do this again?’ It always goes off without a hitch and it’s always such a wonder,” Blackmore laughingly said.

The inaugural Art in the Wilds attracted close to 2,000 visitors, an impressive number for a first-time festival. In the years since, it has steadily grown and now regularly draws more than 6,000 people. With eight artists making their debut at this year’s festival, Blackmore is delighted to see its continued momentum and is excited to be embarking on another 10 years.

“Given the area where we are and how far people have to drive to get here, I think that our attendance has been fantastic,” Blackmore said. “Each festival has been pretty similar to how we’ve started and the quality of art has always been very high. In fact, this year it is probably better than it has ever been before. Some of our artists have been with us for all 10 years, but we also always try to have some new artists each year as well.”

Although art festivals are plentiful throughout the region during the summer months, Art in the Wilds strives to separate itself from the handcrafted herd by placing a strong emphasis on quality over quantity. The vendors must abide to a fairly strict set of rules that ensures that only the finest pieces of original work are displayed.

We are smaller than a lot of the other art festivals throughout the region. Because of that, we always try to keep the quality of art at its highest and actually try to avoid having too many artists so we don’t dilute the market.

Marilyn Blackmore, executive director

“We are smaller than a lot of the other art festivals throughout the region. Because of that, we always try to keep the quality of art at its highest and actually try to avoid having too many artists so we don’t dilute the market,” Blackmore said. “I’ve been to a lot of the bigger shows, but I think that they can be overwhelming, and I think that our show is just the right size.”

In addition to highlighting some truly fantastic art, Art in the Wilds also helps to raise awareness of the local creative scene in Kane. One of the festival’s three tenets in its mission statement is “Expanding the role of the arts in our rural community,” and for the past 10 years, Art in the Wilds has been doing exactly that.

“We love having families attend so that children get used to noticing and appreciating art. Hopefully once they grow up and have their own kids, they’ll share this love of art with them as well,” Blackmore said. “The community has been absolutely wonderful and has really embraced this event over the years. Our neighbors right here in Kane are far and away the biggest purchasers of the art being sold and we are really proud of that.”

IF YOU GO

  • What: Art in the Wilds
  • When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. June 25-June 26
  • Where: Evergreen Park, Kane
  • Info: www.artinthewilds.org
  Comments