The Sunday Driver: Art in the Wilds

Art in the Wilds in Kane, PA

Art in the Wilds in Kane, PA

Take a Stroll to the Rural Town of Kane, Pa. and Discover Magnificent Art in a Beautiful Setting

Have you ever heard of Thomas Kane? If not, then Google him. He was quite an interesting man. A warrior who fought for the Union at the Battle of Gettysburg. A defender of Mormons. A friend of United States Presidents. The founder of Kane, Pennsylvania.

There is a statue of Thomas in the town of Kane, a tribute to the good man who settled there with his wife, Elizabeth (who happened to be a doctor.) Like many small, American towns, Kane has seen better days. 

But a group of ambitious people refuse to believe that this central Pennsylvanian town has nothing to offer. Through word of mouth and a relentless desire to make a difference, they have brought a nice change of pace to the usually slow summer months. 

Enter the Art in the Wilds. 

Started by David and Marilyn Blackmore, Art in the Wilds is an art show now in its 6th year of existence. The couple was sitting on their porch with some friends one night in 2006 when the idea popped up. 

“We wanted to bring something to Kane that would help with economic development and benefit the community,” Marilyn said. “That is when Art in the Wilds was formed.”

Not wanting it to be like any other art show, the Blackmores decided that they wanted the quality of artists to be extremely high. The way they chose the participants … a juried entry. 

“Artists who are interested apply and send us photographs of their art,” Marilyn said. “We put all of that work into a powerpoint and it is then presented to a panel of three judges, who base their decisions on ten different art criteria. We take the top people from the judges’ scores.” 

In the first year, the Blackmores had 27 artists participate. Last year, they had 37. The beauty of this art show is the diversity of the artists that it brings in - woodcarvers, sculptors, painters and photographers. All are invited to attend. 

“The show has grown slowly because of the area that we’re in,” Marilyn said. “We’re not around major cities, so we’ve had to rely on advertising. However, the marketing budget has gotten bigger, we’ve gotten more sponsors, and our patrons have been very loyal. So we’ve seen big growth through that.” 

The reasoning behind the jury is to keep the quality of the artists at the highest possible level. Sure, they could let just anyone in. But the Blackmores wanted to make this a legitimate art show with legitimate artists. Good artists want to be alongside other good artists. 

“Just because you get in the previous year doesn’t mean that you’re given an automatic berth the next year,” Marilyn said. “Artists apply every year. There are some old favorites along with new people as well. It keeps the rotation fresh every year.”

The whole idea behind the show is for patrons to visit the artists and buy their work. Each artist has his or her own tent with their specific art on display. Prices range from high to low - after all, these are professional artists. 

One of those artists, Dawn Johnson, first saw Art in the Wilds advertised in the Sunshine Art magazine, a publication for artists to advertise in. Johnson, a jewelry maker, said the show immediately caught her eye. 

“Coincidentally, I grew up in Kane.” Johnson said. “Talk about coming full circle! When I first heard about it, I really had no idea what to expect - but because it was in my hometown, I knew I had to apply.” 

With Kane being such a rural area, Johnson wasn’t sure of what to expect. 

“I was hoping to cover my expenses. That’s it. I wasn’t expecting anything more. But to my delight, it was the most wonderful art show that I’ve ever been a part of. It was absolutely fabulous. I’m lucky enough to be in my 6th year of participation. After my first year, I had to come back. I’ve been fortunate enough to get in every year.” 

As an established artist, Johnson has been around the block in terms of art shows attended. She’s participated in the Three Rivers Art Festival in Pittsburgh, Pa. to name one. But the diversity of the artists at Art in the Wilds took her by surprise. 

“There are artists from so many different states, it’s unbelievable,” Johnson said. “It’s very unexpected but very pleasurable. The small-town feel of Kane really adds to the aura of it. I’ve done many shows in the past, and this is one of my favorites. These are true artists that do some of the major art shows in the United States.” 

Each year, the fourth weekend in June, is Kane’s alumni weekend. That’s when the school schedules all of the class reunions. It also happens to be the date of Art in the Wilds. It gives those coming back to their alma mater something to attend. 

“It’s been that way since before I was born,” Johnson said. “More importantly, it gives the artists an audience. But this art show is getting a major following. I’m amazed at where some of the people come from to see it.” 

In just its 5th year, Art in the Wilds brought in a whopping 4,300 people. The goal for this year? The 5,000 mark. With quality artists like Johnson coming in, patrons will not be disappointed. 

So at the end of June, if you’re in the area, check out this diamond in the rough art show in rural central Pennsylvania. 

Art in the Wilds will run from 9am-5pm on Saturday and Sunday, June 23-24. Admission is free, and vendors will be on-site to provide food and snacks for the visitors. 

“It really is a wonderful time,” Marilyn said. “We’re combining beautiful art with a beautiful setting. Art in the Wilds will surely not disappoint.”

Learn more at www.artinthewilds.org.

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