by Michael Anderson
Artists and patrons enthusiastically greeted one another at the revival of the 33rd Midwest Salute to the Arts festival in Moody Park in Fairview Heights, IL. After last year’s cancellation due to Covid, the 2021 event returned with a redesigned layout adding wide spacing between the 30 artist tents, demonstration areas, performance stages and a food truck court.
An early visitor to the booth of mixed media artist, Matt Jones, said “I bought one of your pieces in 2019 and I am so glad to see you are back.” Jones acknowledged his customer with a smile as he began discussing his latest works, “I draw from my imagination but if you have a request, I am willing to try it.” Jones’ paintings have an “outsider art” look. He said, “I have always been a rebel.”
In a neighboring booth, Fine Craft/Wood artist, Terry Shaw, was happy to be exhibiting once again at the Salute. He said “80% of my business income is from art fairs.” His exhibit included his furniture designs and sculptural wood assemblages which festival judges recognized with an Award of Merit. Shaw proudly describes himself as a sixth-generation wood-joiner and owns antique hand planes inscribed with the name of his Scottish ancestors handed down to him as family heirlooms.
Michael Steddum, winner of the Best of Show award, believes exhibiting his photo-real oil paintings at art fairs completes his works. Each of the glass jars and objects in his paintings symbolize a meaningful story. The artist said “I admire the work of Vermeer, but I do not paint people. I paint glass. Being able to share those stories with the public fulfills the purpose of my artwork.”
Jewelry artist Kathy Fields was born in Lima, Peru and studied art as time permitted as she raised her children. Along with brass and copper metals, many pieces in her collection include red, orange, and purple spiny oyster shells imported from Peru. One of her featured designs is a necklace with a hand clasp that she says symbolizes “reaching back to Peru” for her art.
Another jewelry maker and Alton, IL resident, Rocky Pardo, spent portions of her childhood traveling to and from her family home in Spain. At that time, she felt “as though Spain was somewhere in the clouds” and believes that experience now influences the celestial design themes in her work. Pardo’s collection also received an Award of Merit.
Sculptor Kevin Trobaugh, a festival favorite and mainstay, placed one of his brushed-steel kinetic sculptures near the entrance of the park where its spinning discs entertained festival goers. Trobaugh said he could sense an enthusiasm for the return of the fair. “I like the layout. It seems like a true art fair format,” he said.
As Stacy Janson, a Belleville-based photographer, handed one of her photographic prints to a buyer, another customer in her booth exclaimed, “You are red hot right now.” She had already sold two other photos by early Saturday morning. Jansen laughingly agreed, “Well, it is summer out here you know!” She explained that this was only her second art fair. She had been encouraged by the acceptance of her work after winning an Emerging Artist award at a Southwestern Illinois College student art show. “I have continued my studies at SWIC just for my own personal development. I have even started drawing during the Covid shutdown,” she said.
Artist Mollie Chounard describes her modern fantasy and surreal paintings as being on “a line between illustration and fine art.” Her detailed acrylic paintings encourage viewers to look for the visual clues she places within her images to provoke a thought or even a laugh. According to Chounard “every painting tells a story.”
Clay artist and Award of Merit winner Mike Bose specializes in raku firing which yields his signature crackle glazing. Although the crackle patterns are random, he varies the thickness of his glazes to control their size. “At some point though, the raku gods do take over,” he admits. Bose combines his vessels with elegant animal figures. He states, “They are my comfort zone.”
Mixed media artist, Peggy Schuning creates mosaics from fragments of repurposed slate, marble, natural stone, tiles, hand-cut glass smalti, and found objects. She says, “Finding the significance in seemingly exhausted materials inspires me.”
Robert Asselmeier, an artisan in Fine Craft/Wood, was ecstatic to be part of the Midwest Salute. His previous art fair having been canceled, it was a joyous experience to be included in this event. “Being here at this festival has been a life-changing event for me. I am so very grateful.” Robert, also, was a Merit Award recipient.
Christina MacMorran, an artist based in Troy, IL, and a member of the festival judging panel, described her experience as a weekend full of “inspired conversations, exciting new artists, and familiar favorites.” She said, “It is a colossal undertaking to plan an event like this, but the impact it has on artists, patrons, and community is equally so. Kudos to the Midwest Salute to the Arts for such a fun, safe, well planned and beautiful event.”
The 33rd Midwest Salute to the Arts also showcased approximately 35 working artists and artisans in the Gesso Magazine, Gateway Artists Guild, Midwest Woodcarvers, and Artisan Guild of Southern Illinois demonstration venues. Live musical performances and children’s activities took place throughout the three-day event.
2021 Midwest Salute to the Arts Award Winners
Best of Show
Terry “Buddy” Shaw
Ryan James Davis
Mayor’s Choice Award
Arts Council Choice Award
Midwest Salute to the Arts:
About the Author: Belleville, IL-based artist Michael Anderson has been an artist, illustrator and designer for over 35 years and his clients hail from around the U.S. Anderson earned a BA with Honors and was a Deans College Scholar SIU Edwardsville in 1973. An award-winning gallery artist, his works have been exhibited in numerous group and solo shows at area venues including Art Saint Louis, St. Louis Artists Guild, Third Degree Glass Factory, Green Door Gallery, Gateway East Artists Guild and Art on The Square. For further information about Michael Anderson’s artworks please visit his website at www.artworkarchive.com/profile/michael-anderson