Saturday’s overcast weather was no deterrence to the thousands of people who attended the 2012 Des Moines Arts Festival’s second day.
As shoppers and onlookers alike flooded the streets searching for a booth that contained an art style they fancied, over 200 artists readied themselves for quite a busy day of making sure their work got noticed. Saturday’s hours had the artists, food vendors and musicians working non-stop from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., managing their booths that surrounded the Western Gateway Park.
With Grand Ave. and Locust Street being the outer perimeter of the festival, those who wished to enjoy live music did so at the stages within the park. Kids and families also enjoyed the unique sculptures and freshly-mowed lawn that just begged to be rolled on. And rolled on, it was; throughout the day, children laughed and screamed as they tumbled down the many grassy hills located around the park’s sculptures.
Among the 200+ artists showcasing their hard work were eight Iowa Staters who were all very proud to have their work in the festival. Six of the students/alumni—Anna Blake, Heather Davis, Patrick Doubet, Elizabeth Mason, Dan Neubauer and Dennis Portz—were included in the show’s Emerging Iowa Artists section. Dedicated to those who show promising up-and-coming talent, this corner of the festival provided an opportunity for those who didn’t make the professional category to still show their work to the public, and hopefully pick up a few sales, too.
“I’ve got some advice for those who wish to sell and share their art, and that is to never stop trying and not be held back by disappointment,” metalsmith Anna Blake said. “You’re going to get rejected 100 times for every one sale you make. Just keep at it and be passionate.” Blake has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from ISU, and this is her first year selling her jewelry at the festival.
In fact, the idea of continual passion was unanimous among the artists. Heather Davis, a newcomer to the festival, is a ceramic artist and graduate in Integrated Visual Arts. As she helped pondering customers choose a plate of hers, she said that the freedom to be so creative is wonderful to her. “I love working with my hands to create my art, but it requires constant passion, labor and focus. Keeping at it is the only way to succeed,” Davis said.
Patrick Doubet, a sculptural artists with a BFA in Integrated Studio Arts, is in his second year at the Arts Festival. Like many others in the event, he said “it’s great to meet new faces and see old friends at the same time.” Having gained interest in sculpture during his sophomore year at Iowa State, Doubet said that the university as a whole really helped him find what he loves to do in life.
Patrick isn’t alone in his statement about ISU. Elizabeth Mason, a metalsmith with a BFA in Integrated Studio Arts, said that she as well found her passion during her sophomore year at Iowa State. “My metals professor suggested this career path when he saw something I was working on,” Mason said. “He, along with many other helpful professors, really helped me find my niche.” This is Elizabeth’s second year at the Des Moines Arts Festival.
The university’s campus, student body and faculty helped Dan Neubauer find his furniture-making talent also. “It’s a great challenge making your work come together, sure,” Neubauer said. “However, with the good people at ISU—like professor Chris Martin—pushing me to do my best, I’ve come far in my pieces.” This is Dan’s first year at the festival; he too has a BFA in Integrated Studio Arts, in addition to being a graduate student in industrial design.
Dennis Portz, a graduate of Iowa State with a BS and MS in Horticulture, has been at his art for 15 years. “In the last three years, though, my ceramic has really grabbed me as my prime artistic focus. I find it to be meditative, almost. It’s great to have your own work that’s truly unique,” Portz said. This is Dennis’s first year at the event.
Two former Iowa Staters that have been gaining recognition are Christian Vandehaar and Chris Vance, both of which had booths in the professional section of the festival. The two artists also won awards at last year’s festival; Vance won a Juror Award in the professional category and Vandehaar won Best of Show in the Emerging Artists section.
Chris Vance graduated from ISU in 2000 with a BFA in Visual Studies and has been interested in his type of work for about 6 years, just as long as he’s been in the festival. “I make paintings, but I don’t really know what to call them,” Vance said. “Regardless, I love what I do and ISU’s design courses drastically helped me prep for where I am and where I’m going. Everyone needs to know that art is a lifestyle, one that you choose to live and one that’s up to you to maintain.”
Christian Vandehaar graduated from ISU and went on to get his Masters at Drake. Now teaching high school art classes, he accredited his love for pastel drawings to Iowa State’s Rome program for design at the university’s Italy campus. “This is my third year at the festival and first year in the professional artists category. The absolute best part of all of this is seeing people’s emotions as they study my pastels,” Vandehaar said. “Self-motivation and the urge to learn at studios like Iowa State’s are the only ways to move forward. With that, you can do anything.”
The festival continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday as artists and guests from around the country conclude their tour through the elaborate minds of today’s creative craftsmen.