Fine art show gives back to the community

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published September 11, 2013

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Artists old and new will fill the grounds of Veterans Memorial Park this weekend for the 26th annual Lac Ste. Claire Fine Art Fair, where patrons can mingle with artists and enjoy a day on the shores of Lake St. Clair.

Entrants Chairperson Sara-rose Melby said about 90 artists have signed up for this year’s two-day event. Covered seating will be offered in the Maloof Family Pavilion for those wanting to take a break and partake in some of the available food or refreshments.

“We have some great new artists coming out, and we have some great returning artists,” Melby said.

She’ll be sharing a booth with one new artist, Ricardo Garcia, of Detroit.

Garcia will bring his graphite drawings to the fair, some of which he has worked on for four or five years.

“It’s sort of like a work in progress,” he said. “I work on it for a little while, then let it go and come back to it.

“I would call it a labor of love because I just like what I’m doing.”

Most of the drawings are models of pieces from the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection. He’s been attending the museum’s drawing in the gallery nights on Friday nights to complete the work. But because the museum rotates which gallery is open for sketching each week, Garcia has to rotate which piece he is working on.

“Just by doing that, it has given me a whole lot of time for me to work on pieces,” he said.

The 26th annual Lac Ste. Claire Fine Art Fair will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 14 and 15 at Veterans Memorial Park on Jefferson Avenue at Masonic Boulevard. Admission and parking are free and no park passes are required for entry during those times.

“I think it’s one of the best art fairs on the water, in a park setting,” said Dave Martin, co-chair of this year’s event.

Martin has been volunteering with the art fair for 26 years and is also a 51-year member of the Miss St. Clair Shores Scholarship Program, which benefits from the fair.

“You can bring your kids; they can play on the playground equipment while parents are walking through the art fair,” he said. “We have a kid’s art tent if kids want to partake in making some sort of an art trinket they can take home.”

Martin said new artists are juried by a committee and stressed that the event is not a craft fair, but a fine arts fair.

This year’s artists will even include some artists working on site, making sketches or caricature drawings.

Returning artist Juliet Smith, of St. Clair, Mich., said she loves bringing her pottery to the fair because she grew up just a few streets away from the park.

“When I started doing pottery, that was one of my goals … to get into that fair,” she said. “Everybody’s in a good mood, and it’s one of my favorite ones of the year.”

Smith makes functional and decorative pottery, including stoneware dinnerware that is dishwasher and microwave safe, porcelain holiday decorations and “pitfire,” which are pieces fired in an outdoor bonfire without a glaze instead of in a kiln.

“All the color on the pitfire work comes from the fire,” she said. “I have a full working studio in my home so … my functional work is all done in my kiln. Some days, I just want to have fun.”

With the pitfire method, she said, “it’s such a blast.”

“You don’t always know what you’re going to get, and 40 percent of it breaks because it’s such a volatile atmosphere in the bonfire.”

But with practice using the method, she has learned what works. For example, wrapping a piece in dried banana peels will turn it darkest black.

“I also use salt and copper carbonate because I go for reds, and that’s how you get reds,” she said.

About 2,500 to 3,000 people typically turn out over the course of the weekend, Martin said. All proceeds from the event go to the scholarship fund for the Miss St. Clair Shores pageant winners.

“It just seems like after 25 years, that everything just seems to flow,” he said.