Monday, April 22, 2024

Village Art in the Park – Nurturing the Arts Today and into the Future

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Sixteen white tents in downtown Leavenworth. Everyone knows—it’s Village Art in the Park!

It’s a fixture of the Bavarian ambiance in the warmer seasons, adding to the visual pleasure of folks strolling by with their ice cream cones and looking for the perfect gift or a picture to remind them of their time in Leavenworth.

But even residents who drive by all the time during its season from May to October might not know that Art in the Park has been running since 1966 and that it’s a nonprofit that benefits the Upper Valley in significant ways.

Art in the Park is a fantastic opportunity for the contributing artists to be a part of the longest running juried art show in the state that offers them a whopping 85 days of sales. Art in the Park board treasurer, Jamie Howell, explained, “Through the juried art sales in the park we provide more than thirty artists a year the chance to generate a real income through their art. We do this both by providing the incredible Front Street Park location, but also by taking a comparatively small commission on their art sales, 22% as compared to the more than 50% commission that would be charged by many galleries or juried shows. For some of our artists, it is their primary source of income for the year.”

Professional photographer and artist liaison to the board, Marshall Mahler has returned to Art in the Park for his seventeenth season. He spends his photography season away, with polar bears in the Canadian tundra, shooting Hawaii’s volcanos, or in the brilliant desert landscapes of the southwest. So, he is stoked to commute from his home in Wenatchee to Art in the Park for close to six months.

Other artists return year after year, but there’s also a place for emerging artists. The consistency of Art in the Park builds a sense of community amongst this creative bunch. “There’s a fun core group of artists that shows up the whole season,” said Mahler. “Art in the Park is like a family; we look out for each other and help each other when we can.”

Howell agreed, saying, “It's one hundred percent designed to support local artists, both established and emerging, and art education.”

That art education support is wide-reaching. “We generate more than $30,000 annually to give away,” said Howell.

The current board and executive director Callie Baker have taken education funding to new heights. The two scholarships for Cascade High School graduates who are pursuing post-secondary studies in an arts major are now $10,000 given over four years, and they have added an additional $2500 one-time merit scholarship.

Longtime board member Teddy Rieke has been very involved in the annual $2000 Enrichment Grant program. “We communicate with the principal and the art instructor of a different school in the Cascade School District (CSD) each fall to invite them to apply for the Enrichment Grant up to $2000. The schools are on a rotating schedule,” explained Rieke.

“Last year we worked with James Swanson and Lore Smart at Icicle River Middle School. They applied for the grant for a multi-year project. The students are painting murals onto plywood and other backings that are quite large and they will be hung in different schools around the district. We look forward to seeing the final project.”

And yet another form of educational support from Art in the Park are the Enrichment 2.0 grants. CSD teachers can apply for $200 grants for small projects in any subject that has a connection to art. These grants enable hands-on art projects that can spur the imagination and aid understanding of subjects like math, science or history.

Mahler advocated for these grants and said, “Art can be a tool to turn on the education switch for a kid.”

Artists and board members alike praised Baker at the helm. “Callie is a dynamic leader. The organization has moved forward dramatically since she’s been involved,” said board president Laura Hansen. Baker’s ideas have aided all aspects of the organization. She initiated the offer to customers to round up their sale with a small donation. The pennies and sometimes much more money has gone straight to the scholarship fund.

“Callie is very tech savvy,” Mahler said. “She modernized the scholarship and grant applications, so they are an easy online process now. She also switched to a direct deposit system, which is super smooth for the artists to receive their commission.”

Art in the Park has refreshed their logo, rackcards, and signage and are working on promotional ideas with the Chamber of Commerce to help locals and visitors alike understand the nonprofit’s long history, its ties to the local arts community, and its integral part in fostering art in the schools through significant financial support.

Locals should come check out the white tents full of paintings, photographs, multimedia art, jewelry, metalwork, and fiber arts. Thursdays and Friday mornings are quieter before the influx of weekend tourists.

And CSD teachers, get ready to apply for a mini grant. Watch for instructions in September.

Baker summed up the value and mission of Village Art in the Park. “Art in the Park is about camaraderie among artists. Collectively, their work in the park supports the next generation of artists in our community. It's a big happy circle.”

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