by Hannah Cruz
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Artists of all types are packing Lions Park this August for the Firehouse Art Center’s 36th Annual Midsummer Nights’ Fair.
The juried arts festival highlights local artists during two days of artist booths, demonstrations and interactive activities 6-11 p.m. Aug. 23 and 24 at 450 S. Flood Ave., adjacent to the Firehouse Art Center.
James Schwartz, fair chair, said the beauty of the fair is that it highlights local talent.
“If people haven’t been to Midsummer Nights’, they haven’t seen the quality of artists that are here,” he said.
Participating artists are working in a variety of mediums including photography, glass, tie-dye, jewelry, metal, pottery, painting, crafts, woodworking, acrylic, soaps, fiber and more. Artists range from student to professional, giving fair attendees the opportunity to purchase original works at a variety of price points.
A total of 29 artists from across the state and country are selling work during the fair, including 11 Norman artists Mark Andrews, Cliff Brown, Chris Burnett, Mark Doescher, Rick Fry, Dan Harris, Gloria Lamar, Darci Lenker, Juanita Williams, Cecelia Yoder and Debra Van Swearingen. Other Oklahoma artists include Susan Chambers, Connie Christopher, Louanne Duckworth, Amy Foster, Shane Glover, Vernon Hatley, Stasia Long, Donna Love, Dan Nealey, Elaine Nealey, Paul Pfrehm, Dana Spearman Reed, Jim Shelley, Thomas Stotts and Bud Webster. Artists Leanne Pyle and June Whitacre come from Texas, with Lara Holland from Colorado.
Artists will be judged in several categories including Best of Show and first, second and third place positions for both 2-D and 3-D works. Firehouse Executive Director Douglas Shaw Elder said the fair is a highly competitive show for artists, offering cash prizes totaling $900.
True to the Firehouse’s mission to provide quality arts education experiences for the public, the fair is offering attendees the chance to participate in the arts themselves.
A large central tent at the fair will host demonstrations by Firehouse faculty, Elder said, including Elyse Bogart creating jewelry from scratch, Bill Boetcher carving stone and Craig Swan working on a clay sculpture.
Bogart, Firehouse jewelry teacher, said demonstrating jewelry making — including soldering, stone cutting and the use of molds — gives her audience a newfound appreciation for hand-made art.
“Usually, if they’ve never been exposed to anything like that they’re always amazed at the amount of work that it takes and how difficult it can be. They’re always interested,” she said.
“We’ll have people that stand there for the longest time watching and maybe they’ll come back again. Somebody will be doing something and we’ll say, ‘Come back in about a half hour and see how it’s changed.’ They’ll come back and check it out and everyone is always fascinated.”
Elder said the tent will also have a model set up for fair guests to try their hand at portrait drawing. Visitors can also participate in foil sculpting and painting “Creative Cubes.”
Children are invited to paint on the Art Wall with assistance from Firehouse faculty, but with only 80 wall positions open each night Elder encourages painters to arrive early. The Firehouse will give out scholarships for Firehouse classes to some of the children painting on the wall.
During the fair, Elder said the Firehouse will be advertising all available classes in the next semester as well as accepting enrollments.
In addition to the visual arts, McMichael Music is hosting two music stages featuring local bands on one stage and McMichael Music Rock Clinic bands on the other.
The live performances are beneficial to both performers and the audience, Elder said.
“Musicians have to perform in order to get better. So we have multiple opportunities to take a break, learn about art, learn about the community,” Elder said about fair attendees. “And every year I hear the same thing. It seems simple but it’s truly remarkable the people that come to Midsummer, many of them only see those people once a year. Which really highlights that it is a gathering place for our community.”
The family-friendly event has continued to grow over the years as it has highlighted a variety of community members. Elder said the Firehouse pushed back the fair from July to August this year in an effort to be more inclusive of the needs of the community.
The changed date will hopefully bring cooler, safer temperatures as well as allow more residents returned from summer vacations to attend. While fair attendance numbers usually hover around 3,000, Elder said the Firehouse is hopeful in a few years they’ll see numbers hitting 10,000.
With recent art funding cutbacks throughout the city and state, Elder said the Firehouse will be accepting donations during the fair to allow them to continue their many in-house and public arts education programs.
“We’re in this business to support the community and we need the community’s support,” Elder said. “Without the City (of Norman) we would not be here, guaranteed. But they are having to tighten their belts and at the same time we need to constantly be on the lookout for the smallest of donations. Without the people’s support we couldn’t be here.”
For more information on the fair visit normanfirehouse.com.
Metals, form, texture, color and gemstones are all the things that Norman artist Elyse Bogart loves most about jewelry making.
The Firehouse Art Center jewelry teacher began her artistic career as a painting student at the University of Oklahoma. She soon found herself translating her visions into 3-D as a metal design graduate student at OU.
Bogart now works with mainly silver, copper and semi-precious stones to translate her visions into wearable art.
“Everything around me. Everything that I see. Everything that I think,” she said on what inspires her. “It’s like any other kind of art making, you pull ideas from a million different places — from what’s going on in the news to landscape portraiture — anything that inspires any art can inspire jewelry as well.”
Though Bogart is demonstrating jewelry making during the fair under the Firehouse tent, her work will be available for purchase inside the Firehouse’s gift shop before, during and after the fair.
Rick Fry had lost his passion for art until a recent discovery rekindled his passions.
Twenty years into the Norman artist’s landscape painting career he grew weary of the routine. After a few years of retirement, Fry revisited painting but this time, instead of focusing on realism, he tried his had at abstract art.
“It takes a lot of courage to paint from emotion and design from color, so I sat on the idea for a couple of months. Then I just tried it and I found it was so refreshing and invigorating and I created 10 paintings in like two days,” he said. “It just started from there.”
Though his artistic renewal only began in April, Fry said he is happy to have discovered a new artistic challenge. His new pieces are still reminiscent of landscapes, but he hopes they help viewers feel and think.
“My job is to cause people to become emotionally involved in what I’m doing,” he said. “When people look at my paintings I want them to have an emotional experience and move into it.”
Fry is selling approximately 35 works at the fair, in a variety of sizes with prices ranging from $300 to $1,500.
Norman artist Dan Harris has always been interested in art.
But how this Irving Middle School art teacher explains it, art was manifest a little differently when he was a kid.
“I didn’t really take a formal art class until I was in ninth grade, but I always made things as a boy,” he said. “I liked to carve and build things. We didn’t call it art it was just how we played. We made go-carts and forts.”
Harris later went on to study ceramics for both his undergraduate and graduate course work at the University of Oklahoma. He also studied for a year at the University of Notre Dame.
Now Harris is selling his whimsical work at the fair. A range of works, including bowls, mugs and bottles, will be on display for purchase.
Harris said he finds inspiration in the work of creation itself.
“It’s a process,” he said. “I wouldn’t say something inspires me. It’s a process.”
For more information on Harris visit dtharrispottery.com.
Music schedule of events:
Midsummer Nights’ Fair offers interactive opportunities for the whole family 6-11 p.m. Aug. 23 and Aug. 24. A large central tent will host demonstrations by Firehouse Art Center faculty, where fair attendees are invited to participate in drawing and sculpting.
Slots are open for children to paint the Children’s Art Wall, with assistance from local artists and Firehouse faculty.
McMichael Music is hosting two music stages featuring local bands on one stage and McMichael School of Music Rock Clinic bands on the other.
Friday, Aug. 23
· 6-9 p.m. — McMichael Music Recital and Rock Clinic Performances, Small Stage
· 6 p.m. — Rick Jones Band, Big Stage
· 7 p.m. — Jane Mays, Big Stage
· 8 p.m. — Morning Star Band, Big Stage
· 9 p.m. — Handsome Devils, Big Stage
· 10 p.m. — Bungalouski, Big Stage
Saturday, Aug. 24
· 6-9 p.m. — McMichael Music Recital and Rock Clinic Performances, Small Stage
· 6 p.m. — Remember It Later, Big Stage
· 7 p.m. — Ivan Peña and Friends, Big Stage
· 8 p.m. — Jimmy James Trio, Big Stage
· 9 p.m. — John Calvin, Big Stage
· 10 p.m. — Pidgin, Big Stage