From what began as a marketing strategy more than two decades ago, the Covington Art Fair has become much more than a weekend attraction for Covington Plaza.
Larry Wardlaw, vice president for account services at Asher Agency, says nearly 90 artists from across the country will showcase fine-art pieces for the 22nd annual fair, which starts Saturday.
We are definitely not a craft show, Wardlaw says. You’ll see one-of-a-kind pottery, jewelry, woodworking – all types of mediums. There’s good variety this year.
Wardlaw says Asher, a full-service advertising, marketing and public relations firm, began the art fair as a way to attract shoppers to the large shopping center on the city’s southwest side.
The two-day fair includes 85 artists and music performances while the businesses in Covington Plaza will be open for shopping and retreats from the sun.
In recent years, the shopping area has gone through a renewal stage, and Wardlaw says business owners are particularly excited about this year.
A lot of merchandise will be displayed out on the sidewalks and restaurants will be open, so you can come out and have lunch through the show, or have a glass of wine or whatever and just enjoy it, Wardlaw says.
As a juried art fair, Wardlaw says participating artists went through a selection process conducted by Fort Wayne Museum of Art Executive Director Charles Shepard and Deputy Director Amanda Martin.
The two judges will go through another round of judging again Saturday, awarding five artists with Excellence in Art and one with Best in Show.
Wardlaw says Shepard also selects a piece to be a part of the museum’s collection.
It’s sort of grown from those early years where it had a fairly small response the initial year or two to where we’ve grown ever year, he says. We want to continue the momentum that we built.
For the participating artists, the concentration of art lovers in one area serves as a great opportunity to sell more pieces this weekend than they may usually sell in other galleries.
Wardlaw says it’s also an opportunity for patrons to buy work from artists whose work may not be available in Fort Wayne. Featured artists include sculptor Roger Mathews of Wichita, Kansas; textile artist Lisa Boesch of Milford, Michigan; and photographer Gary Love of Riverside, California. Regional artists from Ossian, Goshen and Columbia City will also be in attendance.
From the core group of people who attend, I lovingly call them our gypsies’ because these are artists who travel the circuit, throughout the summer and fall. They move weekend to weekend for different shows, and for this group, this is their bread and butter, he says. This is a very good way for them to sell their work.
But how does a rookie sort through 85 booths and find pieces they actually like? Well, Wardlaw says, the first step is to bring an open mind.
It’s sort of overwhelming to look over nearly 90 booths, and at times, we have found people peruse the show once, and later that day they will go back to a particular booth or come back on Sunday after deciding that this piece is going to work. The only danger is that might be the only one – once it’s gone, it’s gone, he says. My advice is to take it all in, and then trek back and pick your favorites.