Be Inspired ... In Nature

Looking for just the right painting to complete that special room? Are you a lover of the great outdoors, interested in celebrating that passion with finely crafted pottery or woodwork? Or are you simply looking to spend a beautiful day outside with your family? No matter what your interest, plan to attend the 9th annual “Art in the Wilds” Festival, which will be held rain or shine throughout the weekend of June 27-28 from 10am-5pm in beautiful Evergreen Park in Kane, Pennsylvania.
Local artisans from all over western New York and northwestern Pennsylvania will be showcasing their work during this two-day juried fine arts show. Featured artists include Donna Little, who creates beautiful one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry from pewter, copper, and brass. Nature photographer Dewey Fladd is one of several exhibitors who make up the two-dimensional artwork category; his photography, as well as the work of fellow two-dimensional colored pencil artist, Dianna Wallace Soisson, both received Artist Awards at last year’s show. There are also many artists who make up the three dimensional art category, including Dianne Levenson’s metal artistry, Lanny Tewell’s leatherwork, and Roland and Geno’s Boni Pottery.
Although several artists have been exhibitors every year, few can share the history and unique experience of this fine arts show like Marilyn Blackmore, Executive Director of Art in the Wilds. In a special interview with The Summer Local, Blackmore shared her involvement with Art in the Wilds, as well as the events and artists visitors can look forward to this year. 
HEYL:How long have you been involved with Art in the Wilds, and where did the idea come from?   
BLACKMORE:Since 2006 when my husband and I, along with some friends, talked about how we could help many local artists find outlets for their fine arts and crafts, how to bring in more artists, and how to provide economic development to the area. 
   We decided that an art show would best accomplish those goals.  The Pennsylvania Wilds Initiative was just getting established and I was asked to be part of that group. We wanted to support it and so the name Art in the Wilds was created. A great deal of research, including travel to some of the best shows in the country, ensued and we began planning.  One of our friends had a family endowment and committed to a $2,000 fund to help get us started. Our first show took place during Kane High School’s Alumni Weekend, which proved to be a brilliant move as it brought hundreds of alumni to the show.  At the same time, a co-op was being formed at the old, restored train depot which gave our artists an outlet for selling art from June through December, giving Kane a reputation for being an art destination.
HEYL:How has the event grown over the past nine years?  
BLACKMORE:The first year we had about 21 artists. That number has now stabilized to around 40.  Attendance that first year was 2,181and it has grown to 5,817 in 2014.  Due to our remote area, we are considering that we might be staying around that number, although our marketing budget increases and we find new and exciting ways to let people know about the show. We feel it’s important to keep a strong ratio of patrons to artists so their sales can be strong.  Artists have proven to be our best promoters.  Many do several shows a year and find other artists who they think will fit well in our show.  They encourage them to apply.
HEYL:How is Art in the Wilds a great opportunity for the artists who showcase their work? 
BLACKMORE:Last year, according to our marketing statistics, the artists made over 918 sales totaling over $51,072.  Artists can sell their art in a gallery or online, but an art show can bring thousands of patrons in a short period of time and sales can be very brisk.  The public is learning to buy art to enjoy and as an investment, and sales have increased steadily every year.  Art shows also are a place where the whole family can comfortably view art and children can grow up with art around them, creating the impetus for becoming an artist or a patron of the arts themselves.
HEYL:What do you think sets Art in the Wilds apart from other festivals/shows like it?  
BLACKMORE:I think the main thing is that we are juried and that the artists are creating new and exciting handmade, often one-of-a-kind products. That means that our jurors can choose those artists who are constantly improving their work and those brand new ones who have fresh, new works.
HEYL:What else goes on at Art in the Wilds, such as live entertainment and dining? 
BLACKMORE:Although the main focus is always on the art, food vendors offer sandwiches, handmade chocolate delights and ice cream, funnel cakes and kettle corn. Seating is available throughout the park in two large food tents and on benches. 
   Artists often demonstrate their skills in their booths and welcome questions and comments from the public. On Sunday, there will be special demonstrations in the gazebo by Dan Hayward, a glass artist creating fused and stained glass, and Peggy Houser, a jeweler specializing in beading.  Those will take place from 11am-noon.
   Background music is provided and on Sunday afternoon from 3-5pm, a wonderful music duo of Denise Drummond (one of our very talented two and three dimensional artists) and George Stephens will be performing a wide variety of music genres in the gazebo.
   Guests should be sure to visit the Student Exhibition and Competition that features high school artists from McKean and the four surrounding counties. 
HEYL:Is there anything new/different happening at this year's event that hasn't taken place before during Art in the Wilds?  
BLACKMORE:In previous years, student art from the Kane Area High School has been showcased in a large tent.  This year, that program has been expanded to include high school students in McKean, Elk, Cameron, Potter, Forest and Warren Counties.  Students whose art has been accepted will be bringing their pieces on Saturday morning for judging and public viewing through Sunday, when at 4pm award presentations will be made.
HEYL:Do you find that visitors often return to Art in the Wilds year after year? 
BLACKMORE:Oh, yes! Each year we bring back favorite artists who are constantly upgrading and improving their art and also bring new artists who have heard about us and successfully apply.  This year, ten artists will be new.  We like to have a nice mix of media and also lots of new products from which patrons can choose.  Also, admission and parking are free thanks to our loyal sponsors whose names are displayed in the show program and around the gazebo.
For more information about this year’s show, including artist photos, sponsorship opportunities and more, visit (Please note that pets are prohibited in Evergreen Park.)
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