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Art Fair Road Trip: Lakefront Art Festival in Milwaukee

The Lakefront Festival of the Arts in Milwaukee, WI, is one of those shows where participation is so highly coveted that artists tell me they always look two or three times at the acceptance to make sure it is true.

In all of our years doing shows there was never another one where we got rejected so many times but still kept trying. You know: times change, judges change, work changes, etc.

Perennial prizewinner, ceramicist William Kidd

Milwaukee is only a 5 hour drive from here in southern Michigan and I needed to see it again for myself. Arriving around 2 pm on Friday after having driven through very heavy rain and high winds which also had pelted the Milwaukee area, it was a pleasure to see the beautiful art museum and the big tents of the show still standing.

The show is held at the Milwaukee Art Museum on the western shore of Lake Michigan. It has often been the victim of bad weather with heavy rain, visitors slogging through straw and plywood flooring put down to get them through the show so that a committee got together awhile back and found massive tents that are erected across Museum Drive on the grounds. Artists booths are backed up to the sides leaving it wide open down the middle for easy load in and out and enabling prospective customers to navigate through the show in their dress up clothes regardless of weather. 

Why the show is hard to get into:

  • it is held on a date where there isn't a lot of competition
  • there are only 170 spaces and winners from previous years are reinvited. If you were a prize winner you get two years additional and if you receive honorable mention you are reinvited for one year. Each year this is 20 people. Do the math and in any year there are 30 reinvites. The show has artist advisors who help the show committee run the event - I think there are six of them. They are reinvited. So now there are fewer spaces, making this a very competitive jury
  • The sales are good, thereby engendering even more competition

I had missed the Friday morning rush but heard from several people "big stuff" was walking out of the tent. The storm may have chased those people home with their cargo and when I got there the crowd was pretty good but not huge.

The show went until 10 pm on Friday night with attendance bolstered by corporate parties (Morgan Stanley, Kohl's and PNC Bank) sponsored in the Milwaukee Magazine Wine Garden and the new Blue Moon Beer Garden (imagine a beer garden in Milwaukee!) encouraging people to spend the evening at the show.

There is a lot of competition for the high end buyer with huge sculpture, fabulous furniture, finewoven clothing, keepsake jewelry, wall-sized paintings, etc. You get the idea. However, this is one of those shows where the "regular" folks like to shop also (it is the coolest event that happens all year in Milwaukee, imho) so if you have work that isn't so high end you may do fine also. 

 

You enter the grounds of the museum through a sculpture garden. These sculptures are by Richard Turner and Eric Carroll.

Then the huge tents that reminded me of being in an international airport terminal but which means the show will go on!
Most of the show is in the tent but part of it is in the Museum of Art itself. There were probably 20 exhibitors indoors. Indoor artists had made this choice and they were highly coveted. Many "wearables" were in this area.

The view from inside the museum:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were lots of old and new friends to see, including Oscar Matos Linares who has made such good contributions to AFI, big beautifully printed and evocative photos, and potter/fiber artist Stephen Kostyshyn:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poster artist was fiber artist Sandi Garris, here making a nice sale:

Here is her work on which the poster was based, a million pieces of hand dyed cottons comprising the modern equivalent of a quilt:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nicario Jimenez with his retablos:

 

The most amazing work I saw was the weaving by
Susan Klebanoff who was participating in her first
art fair:

 

 

 

 

 

 

But how were the sales? Look at this laden down purchaser, reminds me of the "good old days"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is always great to see old friends making nice sales. Photographer Jill Bedford's newest work went home with this buyer:

While we were having breakfast on Sunday morning woodworker Barry Newstat got an email from a "be back" who was back with her car to carry off his fine woodworking:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Good crowd at the Artist Breakfast, including Don Ament, Susan Klebamoff, Scott Swezy, Larry and Donna Oliverson and George Raab.


Hats off to the great LFOA Committee and the
hundreds
of volunteers that make this special event really special including the fabulous Artist Liaison Dionne Wachowiak and  Festival Director, Krista Renfrew. I appreciated your tickets, kindnesses and feeding ;) Hope you get a day off soon.

 

Here is the person I was happiest to see. It was great to spend time with our old friend Ted Gall once again. I know you were trying to look scary, Ted, but you can't scare me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There's more! Here's the video with more info and photos of people you know:

Views: 2240

Comment by Connie Mettler on June 25, 2013 at 4:09pm

Here are the prizewinners:

The winners are awarded $1,000 each. This year's winners are:

Marilyn Andrews, of Plainfield, Mass. for sculpture
Amy Arnold of Viroqua, Wis, for mixed media work
Sandra Byers of Rock Springs, Wis. for ceramics
Daiga Henson and Sarmite Svilis of East Windsor, N.J. for wearable fiber art
Sharon Johnston of Dallas for jewelry
William Kidd of Miramar, Fla. for ceramics
Susan Klebanoff of Albuquerque for fiber art
Katie Musolff of Stoddard, Wis. for painting
Chris Roberts-Antieau of Manchester, Mich. for fiber art
Julie Sutter-Blair of Belleville, Wis. for printmaking

The following artists were given honorable mentions:

Jill Bedford of Delafield, Wis. for photography
Michael Paul Cole of Hannibal, Mo. for photography
Donna D’Aquino of Bethel, Maine for photography
Sarah Giannobile of Webster Groves, Mo. for mixed media work
Susan Hill of Kansas City, Mo. for fiber art
Dean Lucker and Ann Wood: St. Paul, Minn. for mixed media
Patricia Palson of Contoocook, N.H., for wearable fiber art
Julie Seymour of Hillpoint, Wis. for jewelry
Grant Silverstein of Mansfield, Penn. for printmaking
John Sweitzer of Champaign, Ill. for wood work
Phillip Weber of Effort, Penn. for wood work
Warner Whitfield of Weaverville, North Carolina for glass

Here is an article in the Milwaukee Business Journal with more images of the event: http://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/blog/2013/06/business-arts-mix...

Comment by vicki munn/lance munn on June 26, 2013 at 10:50am

the best review i have read and seen.  you should attend all the major shows.  it was good to see you again.

Comment by Connie Mettler on June 26, 2013 at 11:05am

Everything I learned about reporting on a show I learned from Nels Johnson and Geoff Coe:)

I'm just getting up to thanking you too, Vicki. I tell you it was so wonderful to see you and Lance and so many of our "old" friends. Catching up with you and reminiscing made it a wonderful part of the trip. I could write forever about my experiences there: sales reports, life reports, business reports, etc. 

P.S. There is a photo of Lance carrying out that really nice chest in the video. I got so overwhelmed catching up, taking photos and videos, only with there was more time to spend with more of the old gang. 

Comment by Oscar Matos Linares on June 27, 2013 at 8:49am

It was good seeing you Connie.

Comment by geri a. wegner on June 27, 2013 at 9:45am

So  sorry we missed you.  We got there just as it started to rain so we couldn't enjoy the sculpture garden as you walk into the festival.  Once inside, it was the usual higher quality show that you expect from LFOA.  In some cases, there were the usual artists that seem to get in every year but that is actually a small per centage of the total so you get to see new artists.   To me a good festival is when you know why the artists  got in, even if you don't personally care for the work.  The quality shows.  This show had few head scratchers.

You are so right about Susan Klebanoff.  Her work was amazing.  I don't even know how she thought of these wonderful creations.  

The jewelry was beautiful.  I am still trying to figure out how a jeweler who won an award was considered better than the other jewelers.  My cousin and I both purchased more earrings from Beth Solomon.  She does wonderful work.  We drooled over the designs and craftsmanship of Barbara Umbel who had a great show.  Found a new glass artist, Thomas Spake, who will be added to my collection.  

One of the enjoyable things about this show is going outside, grabbing some food and enjoying the view of the museum's wings over the lake.  A great way to relax and decide which pieces you are going to purchase.  The weather prevented this so we decided to leave and  have lunch elsewhere.  

This show is consistently one of the best that I go to each year.  

Comment by David Bjurstrom on June 28, 2013 at 6:57am

Ironic that a production company should be participating in such a great show. Not gonna name it but, it's well known.

Comment by Connie Mettler on June 28, 2013 at 9:36am

So right, Geri. I chatted with Susan. She had had gallery representation for some years and most of them had closed. She is friends with Scott Swezy, who was her neighbor at the show, and he suggested she try art festivals. She really appreciated all the compliments she received all weekend, but no sales. The price points were okay for high end art, but when I asked another artist about her lovely work, he said it wouldn't work at art festivals as it is so fragile, considering the weather conditions we have to put up with. She'd almost have to put it in lucite cases, but then you'd miss the lovely movement of the panels which is part of their charm.

I missed Ed and Judie Seidmanalso who I'd hoped would take me on a buyer's trip of the show, also scattered by the rain, my delay because of the bad weather and the fact I had the wrong phone # for them ;(

I know one of the jewelers who won an award, Sharon Johnston, her first time at the show and she was thrilled with it as well as her sales.

Comment by deb feldman on June 29, 2013 at 8:07am

Dave which production company are you referring to?  We are not always privey to mass producers but we try!  Debra

Comment by Connie Mettler on July 4, 2013 at 8:50am

Thanks for that heads up, David. I have traded emails with the organizers. They had already been alerted.

Comment by Joanne Barsanti on November 8, 2013 at 11:12am

the award winners list shows Donna D'Aquino for photography but when I go to her website, it shows her work as jewelry and sculpture 

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