Arts Festival sparkles on the lakefront

Colorful sailboats dotting the horizon behind Centennial Park provided a picture perfect backdrop last weekend for the artists and vendors at the annual Lakeshore Arts Festival.

“It’s pretty nice,” said Josh Drizin of Girly Steel, a booth holder at the annual festival, an event in its 42nd year.

Drizin sat with his mother, artist Joanie Drizin of Indiana, the elbow grease behind the muscle of Girly Steel. She produced the forest of metalwork staked in the lawn in front of Girly Steel’s booth. The art aligned with the vertical sweep of natural grasses gently fanning Lake Michigan.

“I have girl power,” said Josh’s mother.

Folks came Aug. 2-3 to view art and make purchases from more than 100 juried booth holders. The Lakeshore Arts Festival, which began in the early 1970s, has a diverse goal of being inclusive and welcoming of many artistic abilities.

“This is accomplished by the diversity of arts disciplines and price points, along with the mix of emerging and master artists,” said Patricia Battaglia, City of Evanston festival coordinator/Cultural Arts Programs at the Morton Civic Center.

“The children’s crafts tent area makes the event interactive for all ages,” Battaglia said, adding that The Lakeshore Arts Festival was one of the first fine arts fairs in the region. “Evanston is a community that has always strongly supported the arts.”

Evanston was one of the first communities to repurpose a school building into an arts incubator (Noyes Cultural Arts Center). Since its inception more than 30 years ago, and in exchange for below-market rental rates, Noyes Center resident artists engage in community service, a vehicle by which community members gain access to high-quality arts programming.

Evanston also created one of the nation’s first Ethnic Arts Festivals nearly 30 years ago.

“The city encourages local arts organizations and artists to promote themselves through subsidized class listings and special event listings in the city’s magazine,” Battaglia said proudly.

Word of mouth helps. Consider Elisa Lindstrom, of Evanston, who was born at Evanston hospital and is a 1992 Evanston Township High School graduate. She returned to Evanston with her husband James Wright to raise their daughter Savannah Wright, 5, who will attend Kingsley Elementary School.

“I do landscapes that are Lake Michigan … Evanston,” Lindstrom said, from her booth along a midway.

Lindstrom, who works in acrylics, sells original works and postcards. She’s also a Noyes Cultural Arts Center alum.

“Honestly, I grew up here,” the artist said. “I took private lessons and we would come out to the lake, looking at the horizon.”

And then there was David Battaglia, a glass artist who resides in California and is a 1996 ETHS graduate.

His “RockinGlass” hand-blown glassware, some with stems, featured a glass raw material furnace “rock” in its design, suggesting repurposing.

There’s a measure of refinement too for those savoring single malt Scotch. The embedded glass “rock” suggests a cool ice cube even with room temperature fine whiskey.

“I’m introducing this traditional Venetian way of making goblets to the public as a way to keep that tradition alive,” David Battaglia said.

Battaglia’s booth was jammed at about noon, and two patrons bought tumblers within 10 minutes.

“You can see everything is handmade, no molds involved,” the artist said.

Other handmade items could be found at the GOALed Gallery booth which had a backyard view of Lake Michigan watercraft.

“It’s rolled paper, just a new spin on a paper bead,” said jewelry maker Gabriela Senno, 14, an ETHS freshman and GOALed Gallery Evanston artist.

Gabriela’s colorful necklaces shone on a table in full sun.

The GOALed gallery is a City of Evanston program to encourage young artists also via a summer youth employment initiative. Gabriela and other festival GOALed artists kept 100 percent of festival profits.

“It’s an opportunity to sell their work and learn what it’s like to be a professional artist,” said Rachel Goldberg, GOALed Gallery director.

“I love this festival,” Gabriela said.

Elisa Lindstrom was also grateful to Evanston and for its lakefront.

“Just getting ‘zenned’ out by the lake,” Lindstrom said, recalling of learning how to make art while viewing Evanston’s Lake Michigan shoreline. “Who I am is because of growing up in Evanston.”

The Evanston Lakeshore Arts Festival is presented by the City of Evanston’s Cultural Arts Programs Division and is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council. The event included an auction tent too.

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