Location, location, location: Art show veterans share Main Street memories

By on August 3, 2016

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Artist Carolyn Kilgour remembers her first time at the Lititz Outdoor Art Show.

That was 37 years ago.

“All I had was a card table,” Kilgour recalls, adding that her spot near the town square didn’t provide much room for her modest exhibit. Back then, the show was held on the sidewalks of East Main, North and South Broad streets. The roads were open and parking was not restricted, which made for a crowded event.

“I was lucky. I was right next to Gus Kermes, and he was a sweetheart,” she says. “He knew the property owner and told me I could just prop my paintings up in the ivy. It worked great.”

Today, Kilgour appreciates the Lititz Springs Park setting. There is more room. She gets to chat with people who come to see her work. The shade from the tall trees keeps it a little cooler on a sultry July day. Like all the other artists in the park, Kilgour now has a fancy display and a tent to protect her pastels from the elements. She’s come a long way since 1979.

“Sure beats a card table,” Kilgour says.

Artist Andy Smith agrees. He has been exhibiting in the popular show since 1981. Back then, he was in the Village Art Association. His spot was usually near the post office, and he had a basic wooden stand with a makeshift plastic cover for his watercolors. People couldn’t stop and talk with the artist. There wasn’t enough room. People looking at art had to keep moving or block the way.

“The park is so much better,” says Smith, who is usually found near the Reedy Pavilion with an extra-large space to show off his latest work. His fans know just where to find him, and he’s usually working on a painting and answering questions about his most recent journeys to Italy and Iceland, where he finds new inspiration for his watercolors.

“It’s cooler in the park, although I don’t mind the heat. But there is just more space to stretch out,” Smith says, adding that he has more time to build a following and thinks that helps sales. In just five minutes, Smith sold two paintings, one of the iconic Star Barn on Route 283 near Harrisburg.

A few long-time show participants have mixed feelings between the event being held on the downtown sidewalks versus in the park.

“I liked it on the sidewalk. There was a lot of energy. You got to see everyone in town,” says nature artist Stephen Leed.

He’s been participating in the show for 37 years as well. On the street, he was often in front of what is now Spill café at Sturgis Lane. He liked the festive atmosphere, and getting to know talented artists like Walt Patschorke and Al Taft. Back then his work was displayed on a homemade wooden ladder.

“People seemed to come in waves, first in the morning, then around lunch, then around late afternoon,” Leed says. “In the park, it seems more steady throughout the day. That’s a good thing. And I have room for my display in the park.”

Artist Irene Miller, watercolor artist, is another long-time exhibitor who sees both sides to the on-the-street or in-the-park question. She began exhibiting in the early 1970s, and remembers that being on the sidewalks seemed energizing and fun. However, bad weather posed more of a problem.

“No one had tents, and that made the possibility of rain much riskier,” she recalls.

For many years, Miller served as chairwoman of the show, taking over when John Wenger stepped down. For one year, the two worked together as co-chairs.

“It was a fun group back then. I miss those people, like John Wenger and Vance and Mollie Forepaugh, and Al Taft,” Miller says. “But I do think the park seems more relaxing.”

Arlene Fisher also has mixed feelings about the event setting. She has been in the show since 1972, and hasn’t missed a year. Her beautifully-rendered oil paintings are in a primitive style with softly muted colors like grass green, golden yellow and brick red. With a primitive painting, work is done on a flat plane without a lot of depth. The images at the bottom of the painting are closest, the images at the top are farther away.

“It’s known as ladder perspective,” Fisher says, adding that her style hasn’t change a lot over the past 44 years. Now, she thinks she likes being in the park, but back then the sidewalk show was lots of fun too.

For pastel artist Sandy Askey-Adams, it’s all about the park. She has been participating since 1981. She travels from Churchville, near New Hope, and looks forward to relaxing beneath the trees.

“My work is all about nature, and I like being near the stream,” Askey-Adams says. “You know what I like best? The ducks.”

Laura Knowles is a freelance feature writer and regular contributor to the Record Express. She can be reached at lknowles21@gmail.com.


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