Capturing the Creative Impulse • The 2019 Old Town Saginaw Art Fair

An In-Depth Overview

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Artist Feature, Culture, Community Profiles,   From Issue 882   By: Robert E Martin

18th July, 2019     0

“Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.”  - John W. Gardner

It is a true testament not only to the residents of Saginaw County and the Great Lakes Bay Region, but also to organizers and volunteers who’s desire to reprise the legacy of the Old Town Saginaw Art Fair made last year’s debut return of this time-honored tradition such a resounding success; but more importantly, it demonstrates that creativity is not limited to the canvas and when it comes to celebrating the divergent expressive talents of our region, creativity is indeed in its infancy.

According to Chairwoman Lauren Collison, when the 2nd Annual Old Town Saginaw Art Fair returns to the 400 Block of Court Street between Michigan & Hamilton on Friday & Saturday, August 9 & 10th, the number of featured artists will have doubled from last year, with a total of 41 remarkably talented artists presenting their work from 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 50th anniversary of the festival, it covered five blocks and featured over 100 exhibitors displaying and selling their original high-quality artwork.

“I would say we’ve managed to double the show since last year as far as the number of featured artists we’ll be presenting,” reflects Collison. “In terms of community involvement, we had a few community organizations such as The Saginaw Art Museum, The Mid-Michigan Childrens’ Museum, The Saginaw Children’s Zoo and Major Chords for Minors participating last year, but this year we’ve also added the Delta College & Saginaw Valley State University art departments into the mix, along with the Marshall Frederick’s Sculpture Museum, so that’s expanded as well, which is really exciting.”

Additionally, the staging area for the festival has also expanded and will be taking up not only both sides of the street on the 400 Block of Court Street, but also the entire parking lot space of the ‘Neon Park’ at the corner of Court & Hamilton Streets.  “We’ve also added a few new food trucks this year and have a few musical things scheduled, but last year we only had a portion of the parking lot and now will have the entire lot to work with.”

Collison says the number of mediums featured will be about the same as last year, featuring two-dimensional art, painting, mixed media, photography, print making, and three-dimensional art with fiber, metal, glass, sculpture, jewelry and wood. Times for the festival will range from 11 AM to 7 PM on Friday, Aug. 9th to 10 AM to 6 PM on Saturday, Aug. 10th.

“Last year we featured free art classes and will be doing that again this year as well,” she continues. “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.

“The Kiwanis Club has sponsored our Tie-Dye event that will kick everything off at 11 AM on Friday and will be supplying both supplies and a range of sizes of t-shirts for kids and adults to test their creative hand at tie-dying. And then from Noon to 4 PM on Friday, the Mid-Michigan Childrens’ Museum will be there with Scrap Cards for kids of any age to pull a card that contains an open-ended prompt; and then use whatever materials that have such a fabric and paper to come up with whatever creation flows from their imagination. We will have two U Me Paint classes that will take place during the Art Fair. The first will be ‘Starry Night’ Friday at 5 PM. Examples of the paintings are on our Facebook page.”

“On Saturday U Me Paint will be offering their painting class again at 10 AM for the ‘Make a Wish’ painting. The Childrens’ Museum will return to conduct their Scrap Card workshops from Noon to 3 PM; our Closing Activity at 4 PM on Saturday is a Poured Painting class sponsored by the Saginaw Area Watermedia Artists.”

As the Old Town Saginaw Art Fair has witnessed substantial growth for its second year, what are the biggest challenges that accompany such growth?  “We want the Great Lakes Bay Region and everyone around it to know about this festival,” states Lauren. “I would also like to continue to expand the list of featured artists and community members.  Out of the 41 artists featured this year, we have 30 from Michigan; and out of those thirty, 17 are from the Great Lakes Bay Region, most from Saginaw and then some from Bay City and Midland; a couple from Freeland; and then a few from Ohio, Florida, Indiana, Idaho, and Georgia.”

“I think the growth in participating artists this year stems out of the awesome artists that we were fortunate to feature last year,” she continues. “They all were really positive about the Art Fair and that’s part of how we got the word out - from this positive feedback from other artists when talking to their friends and sharing shows.”

“The Jury Foundation has also given us a generous donation this year for awarding the top artists and we will have five categories awarded at this year’s Art Fair,” concludes Lauren. “The jurors will be walking around on Friday and select the top artists from each of these categories. JB Meinberg’s restaurant is sponsoring an artist reception on Friday night (not open to the public) which presents a wonderful opportunity for the artists to mingle and we will present the awards to the artists. Saturday morning we will present ribbons for the award recipient artists to display in their booth.”

“We’re grateful for our all our sponsors who are an integral part of making the art fair come to fruition, like Garber, Local 85 Union, Fordney Club, and  Founders Building Luxury Apartments, and several others.”

Here is a sampling and a closer look at some of the artists that will be on display at the 2nd Annual Old Town Saginaw Art Fair:

Steve & Lynn Cebula

Profiles by Jason Dean

Incorporating vibrant colors and flowing lines into their pieces, Steve and Lynn Cebula are drawn to musical themes in their work. Together for 24 years, the Cebulas are both self-taught explorers who revel in the creative process. 

“We don’t do sketches or drawings beforehand,” says Steve Cebula. Instead, the Cebulas use their preferred tool, a jig saw, to cut a variety of wood shapes, which they combine with pieces of glass, metal, and other materials. The result is a freeform jigsaw puzzle of elements that coalesce into a single piece of art. 

Based in Florida, the Cebulas hop in their motorhome every spring and make their way to the Midwest, where they remain until early fall, with Michigan serving as their “home base” away from home.

Dali-esque clocks and whimsically abstract guitars represent the playful spirit the couple uses to create wall art that percolates with rhythm. Their latest works have explored a variety of themes, from gaming to the kitchen to the ocean. Les Gold, of Hardcore Pawn fame, owns two of their pieces. They also were commissioned to create a piece for Frankie Valli, incorporating some of his Four Seasons memorabilia into the work. 

“We like to use imagination without rules,” says Steve. 

Linda Chamberlain

Linda Chamberlain’s mixed-media paintings incorporate a philosophy that “reduces reality to its essentials” while drawing on her extensive fine arts training (a Masters in Fine Arts from Illinois State  University with a specialization in historic preservation). 

The Bay City native eventually returned to her hometown in 2014, relocating from Traverse City, and promotes her art through Simple Works (a name she first adopted in 1981), with natural settings and various critters dominating her imagery. “I’ve sort of given up on humanity,” she jokes. 

The stylized approach of her work gives a nod to the Arts and Crafts movement while also drawing comparisons to Maurice Sendak.

Chamberlain’s current undertaking is a nine-panel series called “The Art of Coming Together,” a visual commentary on the divisive climate currently gripping society. “I think we’re so disconnected [from nature] for the most part,” she adds. 

“The majority of our population is urban … and I think there is a real need to have a touchpoint [with nature].” 

Chamberlain believes in the localized aspect of coming together as well. While cross-country roadtrips used to be common for her, she is embracing the immediacy of the region for its opportunities. 

Antoni Kozlowski

Antoni Kozlowski used amber to craft his first piece of jewelry 27 years ago, and he’s been working with the fossilized tree resin ever since. The lightweight material is ideal for the larger pieces that the Poland native prefers to create.

Kozlowski’s amber is sourced from the Baltic Sea, known to produce more than 200 shades of the deep yellow mineral dated between 40 and 60 million years old. “It’s a very interesting material,” says the Shelby Township resident. “People believe in its healing properties.”

While working with amber, the trained metalsmith will occasionally encounter an archeological find in the form of a petrified insect. Kozlowski says that the post-Jurassic Park generation is much more educated about amber and, while the phenomenon is rare, by his estimation about 1 in 1,000 pieces Kozlowski works with contains a fossilized prehistoric creature.

The 70-year-old artisan’s bracelets, rings, necklaces, earrings, and pendants are imbued with an ancient spirit that is counterbalanced with modern yet classic designs.




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