ST. GEORGE — Town Square Park was filled with art enthusiasts and sunshine-soakers on Friday for the first day of the 2021 St. George Art Festival.
The festival kicked off at 10 a.m. Friday morning with awards for art vendors in each medium, and the fun will continue throughout the day and into Saturday. After a yearlong hiatus due to COVID-19, the arts festival is expected to see 30,000 visitors this weekend, deputy director of arts and events for the city of St. George Michelle Graves told St. George News.
“People are interested – they’re here and enjoying it,” she said. “We just really try and make it family friendly so there’s really something for everyone to come out and enjoy, and the purpose of this is just to involve the community and gather and be together, and we’re so happy to be able to do that as we’re coming away from COVID.”
Each of the 105 art vendors at the festival was invited by the city to participate. The festival usually hosts 120 artists and has to turn away some applicants, but fewer vendors applied this year due to the pandemic, Graves said. In order to participate, at least 80% of a vendor’s artwork must be original.
This year’s featured artist, Lynette Nichols, is the only vendor who will be invited back to the festival next year free of charge.
As a Utah native who married into an Apache tribe and lives on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, Nichols told St. George News that her work blends her two loves: nature and Native American culture.
“I’m really happy to be here because I’m a new artist,” she said. “I’ve only been doing this at shows for three years.”
Nichols was encouraged by others to start drawing, she added, and after eight years of practicing her craft, she said she looks forward to becoming more involved in the art world of St. George and beyond.
The city also awarded ribbons to some of their favorite artists Friday morning, and will choose two or three of the best pieces to purchase for the St. George Art Museum. The winners are on display throughout the fair with blue and red ribbons for all to see.
Scott Yelonek, whose oil painting “Leaving the Station” won first place in its category, said he started working on the piece in late December and it was still wet when he loaded up to drive to the festival from Price, Utah. Part of the fun is in creating the details, he said, adding that he tried to make the painting look alive with paint dripping down and a bright yellow headlight.
Barry Gray, a wood turner from Mesquite, won second place in his category with a multi-layered wooden bowl. It took more than 2,470 pieces of wood to make it, he said.
“When I found out I got second place, I was very pleased,” he said. “Even though I might be in a museum, there’s still something to be said for the amount of work you put into something.”
Gray collects fallen wood from wherever he can find it, and he also travels to California or Oregon to buy wood if he’s looking for something special. A former president of the Southern Utah Wood Turners and current member of the Las Vegas Wood Turners, he enjoys coming to art shows and teaching others about wood turning, he said.
The Art Festival will be open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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