A feeling of glee and optimism permeated not only the outlook of organizers, artists and attendees, but the art itself at this year's Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts June 25-26.
As they scanned the artwork produced by professionals, amateurs and students, people were struck by the vibrant colors on display. Meanwhile, they were just happy to be back to a regular festival format and to reconnect with people they hadn't seen in a while. Ultimately, the theme of "reemergence" shined through.
"I can see that people have changed a lot. They've changed their mediums, changed their compositions, changed their color patterns," festival curator Jan Rimerman said. "They are grasping at light again. They're coming out of studios where we were all locked in for two years. It's really fun to see brand new things and see the artists engaging with the people."
The festival included art demonstrations, exhibits produced by local elementary school, middle school and high school students, a slate of musical performances and artists showcasing pieces ranging from mixed media to sculptures, photography and jewelry at both the Lakewood Center for the Arts and George Rogers Park. Organizers said Monday that about 10,000 people attended the festival over the weekend.
Though the weather climbed up near 100 degrees on Sunday, it was not quite as sweltering as the previous year when the festival took place during the historic heat wave. And the festival was more limited in both 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.
"It's very exciting, just to have this event happening in a big, coordinated way," festival steering committee member Sue Smith said.
And the artists appreciated being back as well. Shobha Jetmalani, whose work was displayed in the Dee Denton Gallery, recalled putting up an exhibit in downtown Portland the day before the state closed due to the pandemic in 2020 and then having to take it down a few months later. However, she said the time allowed her to tinker and explore new ways of painting — including adding figures to her landscapes. She noticed a similar metamorphosis among other artists.
"They got off of the mill of producing for certain things (like exhibits). They went back inwards and tried different things and maybe got more expressive," Jetmalani said.
And, like last year, organizer Lois Suwol noticed that the artists — some of whom hadn't shown their work in years — awaited the return enthusiastically.
"The artists are so happy to be back. You see the joy in them. I can't tell you how often I was thanked for having the event," she said.
Marilyn Katcher, who has volunteered for the festival for 20 years, complimented the work of festival lead organizer Natalie Wood for coming up with new and fun initiatives this year such as an art parade. She was also amazed by the art that students produced this year.
"Everyone working here is excited about what we're doing. It's a great environment to be in," she said.
For his part, steering committee member Dan Findley felt that the festival exemplified the city's focus and appreciation for the arts and said that it's enjoyable to be around others who are so passionate about encouraging and highlighting self-expression.
"It's all in pursuit of supporting the notion that we are an arts city. We are an arts city not simply for Lake Oswego, but we are an arts city for the region," he said.
All in all, the art festival is its own micro-community in Lake Oswego. Many of the organizers have collaborated for decades and have made long-lasting friendships in the process.
"I knew nothing about art when I first started and still can't even draw a straight line, but it's a family. I have such wonderful friends who are artists, people on the steering committee," Suwol said.
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