PEORIA — Art fans flooded the Peoria riverfront Saturday to see the work of artists from 22 states at the 56th annual Fine Art Fair, one of oldest art fairs in the country.
“We try to attract people from all over that just love art and art fairs to come and stay for the weekend,” said Kim Sanders, co-director of the fair. “That’s another reason we try to attract different kinds of artists so that we can get people not only from our own community, but get people to our community to experience Peoria.”
The Peoria Art Guild brought in 130 artists from across the country with a wide variety of art forms. A dozen different mediums of art were available including works made from metal, glass, wood and resin, and some photography, sculptures and even digital and mixed media combinations.
Clothes, bags and jewelry of leather, textiles and minerals were also sold as “wearable art.”
“We want to expose people to the arts, to all the variety of arts,” Sanders said. “Plus people enjoy the variety. They want to come down here and see something unique, something different that they don’t see every day.”
Ten local artists were also selected from the Guild’s blind jury to showcase their work.
Natalie Zelman, a Bradley University graduate student, was chosen as this year’s Emerging Artist. She is working toward a Master of Fine Arts degree focused in ceramics.
“I am drawn to clay like nothing else and draw inspiration from every step of the process, from mixing the clay to the final firing,” she wrote in her artist statement. “I enjoy the connection between the natural world and the earthiness and rich history of the ceramic tradition.”
Posters that read “I Buy Art” were scattered across the riverfront as part of a grassroots campaign started by a Peoria-based textile company called Collecture. As the central theme of the fair, everyone who makes a purchase receives a button with the slogan.
“The best way to support artists is to buy their art, so that’s what we’re promoting,” said Shannon Cox, the other fair co-director.
A contest was added this year in honor of a longtime Art Guild member and volunteer, Brenda Mahoney, who recently died. To tie in the I Buy Art initiative, the texting contest will award the winner with a $500 prize toward the purchase of art from the participating artists.
Because social media is changing the way communities come together, a pink Instagram wall was also added this year, emblazoned with “I Buy Art.”
While kids joined in art projects with Illinois State University STEM programs, adults were invited to pick up a paint brush and make a contribution to the community mural designed by featured poster artist John Leben.
Attendance — and the line at the coffee truck — grew quite a bit since last year's sweltering fair thanks to the falling autumn temperatures, Sanders said.
The final day of the fair will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday on the riverfront.
Kelsey Watznauer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @kwatznauer.