In-person Art in the Pearl thrills artists
As people are being lured back into downtown Portland, the organizers and artists of Art in the Pearl are ready to do their part.
There'll be about 100 jury-selected artists and, hopefully for their sake, thousands of visitors when the 25th annual fine arts and crafts festival takes place Saturday through Monday, Sept. 4-6, in the North Park Blocks. Organizers are asking people to wear face coverings, and a perimeter security fence surrounds the area — but it's set to go, a year after Art and the Pearl, like most things, had to be online.
"The overall consensus (of board members) was that we needed to move forward and find a way to have a show and continue to be an event," said Ashley Heitzman, the festival's publicity director and a jewelry maker. "We're not having food booths or food, and we took out the (public) hands-on demonstration area, but we'll still have demo booths. We're also taking out the music stage that led to a congregation of people" and providing roving musicians.
"And, 100 (booths) fit nicely without being too crowded."
The Pearl District Neighborhood Association was all for putting on the festival, she added.
"That, and the business community was really for it," Heitzman said. "They're excited to have something fun to go down there and be positive," given the downtown's issues with the homeless, protests, closed businesses and lack of foot traffic.
Security fencing will be used specifically for helping protect artist booths and property overnight.
As far as drawing people downtown, "I'm not too worried," Heitzman said. "Generally I've found that people who do come out are really excited to support events such as these (including Portland Saturday Market). It's kind of like a filtered crowd these days. People are coming to shop and support. Artists have been doing well at events this year."
Imagine coming across the country to be at Art in the Pearl — Kina Crow, a panel artist and sculptor from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has done it many times. She usually drives her van with her materials and works, but her son will be doing the transporting this year.
Crow said nothing beats face-to-face interaction for artists, after a year (2020) of "sequestration."
Art in the Pearl "is very well known by many independent artists in the U.S. as one of the top shows in the country. It draws not only collectors who appreciate original artwork, but, in my opinion, a crowd of especially inquisitive and intelligent people."
Her art features wall panels combining two-dimensional and 3-D objects. She sculpts whimsical figures and installs them into 2-D painted panels and creates stories "about the crazy and lovely magic about being human." She also creates stand-alone sculptures "that beckon the viewer to take a much closer look," hoping to generate intrigue and delight.
"I love when people discover the tiny details and, I can with great confidence say, that if you hear lots of laughter, it's coming from my booth," she said. "I feel honored to be tasked with amusement and lighthearted entertainment — I think the court jester is my spirit animal."
Meanwhile, Art in the Pearl does feature local artists as well. Shellie Garber of Portland is one of the event's "emerging artists" and will be showing paintings at a festival for the first time. She has been painting for about five years.
"I have enjoyed moderate success on Instagram with over 85,000 followers and I do get sales from that platform," said Garber, who also sells through online galleries, as well as Rental Sales Gallery at Portland Art Museum and RiverSea Gallery in Astoria.
She is also a registered nurse working at a medical office; Garber says she is not working with hospitalized COVID-19 patients. But, doing art does help her decompress and relax from an oft-stressful profession.
"I would describe my artwork as a light-hearted interplay of color, line and soft geometric shapes," she said. "I love creating textures in my work through layering, scratching and collage. I strive for a sense of history, and patina in my surfaces."
Perhaps speaking for all artists at Art in the Pearl, she added:
"It is a pleasure and an honor to be able to show my work to collectors and fellow Portlanders. With the majority of my art business being online, I lose the connection of interacting with collectors and having them see my work in person. This is a rare and wonderful opportunity for both. I am hoping, that in spite of COVID-19, we will have a wonderful festival and can celebrate the arts together in a safe and joyful way."
For complete info: www.artinthepearl.com.
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