As a proud member of the Old Town Saginaw business district, with our Review offices located here in this ambient and historical district for 36 years, it gives me immense gratification to be able to welcome you to the 2nd Annual Old Town Saginaw Art Fair, which will be held on the 400 block of Court Street between Michigan & Hamilton Streets on Friday & Saturday, August 10-11th from 10 am to 7 pm, and will feature the incredibly talented work of numerous artists representing the top of their field in a divergent array of media.
The tradition of the Old Town Art Festival is legendary, dating back to 1965 and started by a core group of respected local artists and business owners that included the late Samuel Carter, who contributed illustrations to the definitive history book about the Saginaw Valley known as Indians, Jacks & Pines, along with Tom & Mary Ellen Whitney. Until its untimely demise in the 2000s, it stood as the longest running art fair in the State of Michigan, pre-dating even the Ann Arbor Art Fair; and at its zenith in 1995 that marked the 30th anniversary of the festival, it covered five blocks and featured over 100 exhibitors displaying and selling their original high-quality artwork.
Last year, as part of the Hamilton Street Bash, Lauren Collison took it upon herself to convene a core base of volunteers and business owners set upon the daunting mission of re-constituting the legacy of this historic festival and displays palpable excitement and optimism over the fact that this year’s festival has nearly doubled the number of participating artists that will be on display.
“I was pleased with last year and think it was a good start but am excited with the progression we’ve been able to make for this year,” states Collison. “We have close to 26 artists that will be featured and have many free art activities scheduled to take place. The Fordney Club has sponsored several U Me Paint classes that will take place in the morning and evening on both days of the Art Fair.”
“Professional art instructors will come to the Festival and teach a 2-hour painting class and the first 40 people who arrive will be able to get a free painting class that will teach them the basics of artistic expression,” she continues. “These events will take place at 10 am, 1 pm and 5 pm on both Friday & Saturday. All the artists will have their display booths set up on Court Street between Michigan and Hamilton, and the Court Street bridge will still be open, along with traffic still flowing on Michigan and Hamilton streets.”
“The historic ‘Neon Sign’ park on the corner of Court and Hamilton will also have a 20 x 30-foot event tent set up so we can conduct the painting classes; and other community organizations will also be setting up display booths,” she adds.
“The Saginaw Children’s Zoo will also be involved, as will the Saginaw Art Museum and Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum, who will be bringing their Art Carts so if people want to engage in a drop-in activity during both days of the festival, they can drop by either of these booths.”
“One thing I am truly excited to see is the Saginaw Children’s’ Zoo display, as they will be bringing paintings created by their animals for people to purchase,” notes Lauren. “They have different animals, such as the penguins, walk in water-soluble acrylic paints and then have the animals walk on canvas, so are creating an art activity called ‘Paint Like the Animals’, which should be a big draw for children and adults alike. We won’t be having kids walk in paint, but they will be able to trace their feet and hands and make their own creations, so this is one of the activities we will do to help support the Children’s’ Zoo.”
“All of the many local restaurants that are a highlight in Old Town Saginaw will be featuring food specials, plus patrons can enjoy the activity surrounding our ‘Painted Piano’ project, with a painted piano currently located in the Gazebo at Borchard Park and one in front of The Listening Room; and we are scheduling various pianists to come and perform on these pianos both days of the festival.”
Because the Old Town Saginaw Art Fair is a ‘Fine Art Fair’, each artist that will be on display has their work juried in order to be able to participate in the Festival. “The criteria we are looking for and basing admission upon consists of originality, composition, and craftsmanship,” states Lauren. “This year we have also nearly doubled the amount of prize money from last year that will be awarded to the top artists and will be handing out $1500 in prize money, thanks to generous donations from the Jury and Delta College foundations sponsorships. We will have three jurors and award the money to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place entries.”
“Most of the artists on display will be from our area, but we have many from outside our region that are involved; and because of the application system that we use, coupled with attending various art fairs and talking to artists individually, we have a really good reach and have picked up solid momentum within the Arts community about what we are building here in Saginaw with the annual Old Town Art Fair and are building upon the base of our foundation,” reflects Collison.
“This year we will have artists on display that are working with glass, ceramics, metal, jewelry, photography, painting, and fiber art, and I’m very excited that we have developed such a strong mix of mediums,” concludes Collison. “While we’ve already reached our application deadline, we have extended it to July 30th, so any artist that wishes to participate can still apply and submit their work and we can still jury it in time to configure all the booth spaces.”
“My goal for this year was to have anywhere from 20 to 40 artists sign-up, so I feel very good about where we’re at right now. Hopefully, next year we’ll be in that 40 to 60 artist range and keep growing and can ask the city for more blocks to showcase more artwork and get back to the stature of what a lot of people remember the art fair being.”
“Community response has been amazing and I truly appreciate how positive everyone has been. I’ve had so much fun listening to peoples’ stories about what they remember about the art fair and hope we can continue to reach higher and get to that same point, because people have such fond memories about it.”
Meanwhile, here is a sampling and closer look at some of the artists that will be on display at the 2nd Annual Old Town Saginaw Art Fair.
Artist Profile • Fletcher Dean Photography
Fletcher Dean is a former professional newspaper photographer who has held a camera in his hands for four decades. “Today, I’m a fulltime writer and mainly pursue photography - especially landscape photography - for my own pleasure,” he states. “I enjoy doing art fairs and meeting people and sharing travel experiences, since I show pieces from as far afield as Italy, Puerto Rico, Alaska, the Southwest United States, Canada and Mexico. Most people who see my booth comment on the variety and intensity of the colors. I work hard to capture nature’s color and present it the way I saw it for myself.”
“Some people believe that a photography is a reflection of reality - that what you see in a photograph is what was there, and that we all see the same thing. For me, neither life nor art are that simple. In both life and art, we bring our own experiences to bear, we harbor our own biases, and we see with eyes colored by unique shades of grief and love, remorse and optimism, curiosity and apprehension. Reality for one person, in other words, is not necessarily reality for another. One person sees a dead and dried flower, sagging inevitably to earth; another sees a gallant grasp to life and the graceful beauty of aging.”
“Although I once worked as a photojournalist – and passionately followed a mantra of providing an unbiased and unaltered view of the world – today I embrace a much wider and more lenient viewpoint. Through photography, I try to capture and present my own vision of reality. And I take great creative latitude in that mission. I not only get to pick the subject, I pick the perspective, the lens, the depth of field, and shutter speed. I crop the image to restrict the viewer’s eyes. I pick the tones, the paper and ink that best reflect my vision. And when I’m done and the resulting image matches my own version of reality … I present it to you.”
When asked what he feels is the most challenging component involved with his work, Fletcher references the colorful vibrancy of nature itself. “The most challenging part of my work is trying to convince people that the color in my work is real and not edited in. Mother Nature - all by itself - can produce extraordinary vistas and vibrant colors. If you're willing to get up early enough in the morning or stay up late through dusk, you can often see them at their most vivid. That's what I try to capture and share with others.”
“I'm increasingly being drawn to other forms of art, especially encaustic. Encaustic is an Ancient art form that involves working primarily with pigmented bees wax. It's opening up new venues for me to express myself, sometimes including photography but also as a stand-alone medium. By next year, I hope to have enough body of work solely in encaustic to devote at least half of my show schedule to that one medium.”
“I encourage people to visit all the booths and simply enjoy the work and the artists. I know some people feel awkward about spending 10 or 15 minutes in a booth and leaving without buying anything, but the vast majority of artists don't mind. We enjoy sharing our work, talking with others who enjoy it and sharing experiences.”
Artist Profile • Susan Stewart
Susan Stewart of Sneaky Kitten Studio began making jewelry with dichroic glass approximately 12-years ago when a friend introduced her to the medium. Dichroic glass consists of multiple ultra-thin layers of different metals (such as gold or silver); oxides of such metals as titanium, chromium, aluminum, zirconium, or magnesium; or silica that are vaporized by an electron beam in a vacuum chamber. The vapor then condenses on the surface of the glass in the form of a crystal structure.
“Frankly, I felt it too confining to work with small 2-inch pieces of jewelry, so found a company that sold larger pieces of COE90, which is the type of class I use for fusing glass in transparent and opalescent colors,” she explains. “This allowed me to do larger sculptural work.”
“My artwork is a reflection of nature with some whimsy thrown in, states Susan. “I hand-cut all of the pieces and don't use molds, as I like the surprise element coming out of the kiln. I love bold colors and have started "painting" with frit ( ground glass), which allows more color combinations and to be more painterly with my work.”
“I also incorporate hand torched enameled copper pieces, manipulated copper wire and some found objects into some of my artwork. I feel the embellishments add a little more depth and moxie to my work.”
As is true with the creation of anything that is singular and unique, the artistry of kiln firing is equal parts of inspiration fused with the meticulous and detailed chemistry of applied science. “The most challenging part is working artistically within a controlled technical environment ( glass thickness, kiln temperature and amount of time in the kiln). Kiln fused glass is a delicate balance between the fragility of glass and the extreme temperatures (1485 degrees) that the glass is subjected to. Different techniques in kiln fused glass call for varying temperatures to achieve the look that I want. Sometimes I may want a particular part of a piece to have a very defined area, which would be heated to a much lower temperature. This is why I keep a detailed notebook on my firings.”
“I am constantly pushing myself in new directions,” concludes Susan. “I like to call it "jumping in with both feet." At this time, I am doing art shows around the country and work on new designs and techniques during the off season, which includes glass casting and pot melts. Kiln glass fusing is an ever - evolving art.”
Artist Profile • Karla Stahlecker
Karla Stahlecker started working with ceramics in her freshman year of high school.
“At first, I had no interest but quickly fell in love, and each following year I made sure to enroll in the class again,” she explains. “I started college to become an art teacher and had to push it aside. This is the first time I've had the space to have my own wheel and throw. With the encouragement of my students, I started creating art for the show. My work is designed to fit nicely in your hands as you use it; serving both function and elegance.”
“As an art teacher, it's important that I make time for my own art. I have only ever made ceramics in a classroom setting, so this has been an adventure in establishing my own studio space and experimenting with the material.”
“It has been nice to be able to use the space in a way that is best for my work, without worrying about getting in the way of someone else. I wander downstairs to finish a few odds and ends and find myself staying for a couple of hours. I find the whole process very satisfying. There is a soothing tactile nature to clay that is so inviting.”
“I love to make everyday objects that fill a home with beauty and comfort. There is nothing I love more than holding a handmade mug of coffee in the morning. Each piece is unique, with its own personality.”
Artist Profile • Daniel Snyder & Jennean Kabat • Out of the Bar: Junk to Art
Daniel R. Snyder is a writer, teacher, artist, and native of Los Angeles who years ago immigrated to Saginaw and lives with his wife and fellow artist, Jennean Kabat. When not writing or teaching he can be found making huge piles of sawdust in his workshop and playing with the barn cats.
Jennean is an artist and a retired librarian who works with many different mediums, creating one-of-a-kind dried floral arrangements and unique home décor. She is most well-known for her yard angels, which she creates out of found objects.
Whether you’re an artist, a crafter, or an environmentalist, one cannot help but admire their mutual mission: to take broken, rusted, abused, neglected, and unwanted refuse that usually ends up in landfills, and turn it into art.
Every work they create has a story behind it, many of which they have also imparted into a book titled Out of the Barn: Junk to Art, which can be purchased on amazon.com.
16th November, 2023