‘It’s the atmosphere’: West Shore Art Fair draws thousands | News

From paintings, prints and photography to metalworks, jewelry and handmade clothing, a massive assortment of fine art was on display during the weekend for the 55th annual West Shore Art Fair.

Thousands of people attended the juried festival at Ludington’s Rotary Park, snaking their way through aisles of artists, food vendors, musicians and more during the two-day event.

The festival featured 90 jury-selected artists from throughout the region, the state and the country, and the vendors in attendance said they were happy to be there. The West Shore Art Fair is a draw, they said, because of its serene setting and the people it attracts.

Debi Dwyer of Debbie Dwyer Designs — based in Boone, North Carolina — said the art fair one of her favorite stops on a lengthy list of art fairs in the Great Lakes area.

“It’s the atmosphere,” Dwyer said. “I love Michigan people; I think they’re awesome, and Michigan shows are great in general. … I’d stay up here all summer if I could.”

Mike Kehr and his wife, Tracy, owners of Dragonfly Garage, have been coming to the art fair for 15 years, selling glass mosaics made at their business.

Kehr said the event has become a tradition for the couple because of the appreciation Ludington shows for the arts community.

“Ludington’s such a great town for art,” he said. “Not only the locals, but also the people that come in — it’s just good stuff.”

Kehr joked that he and his wife, who hail from White Cloud, are “local, without being too local,” adding that the couple plans to keep coming to the art fair, “as long as they’ll have us.”

“It’s such a great show,” he said. “We really appreciate them having us out here every year.”

Rosa Chavez and her husband Leon Ruiz, owners of Emerald Art Studio in Naples, Florida, have also become art fair regulars over the past several years, displaying striking acrylic paintings of abstract marina scenes, cityscapes and more.

Chavez said the West Shore Art Fair is a chance to sell her work directly to the people who find it appealing, without sacrificing facetime with new customers.

“I’m here because … I like to paint, and people like my work, and interaction with people is so important to me,” she said, adding that she prefers to connect with buyers directly rather than selling to galleries and not knowing who ends up with her work.

Chavez and Ruiz make the trip to Ludington all the way from Florida each year because the West Shore Art Fair is “amazing” and held in a “beautiful area,’ Chavez said.

“This is like a vacation for me,” she said.

She and Ruiz hope to continue coming to the art fair as long as they’re accepted.

While vendors enjoyed their time in Rotary Park, visitors like Eric and Mary Riggs of Florida were equally thrilled with the event.

Eric and Mary, who originally hail from Mason County, were in town visiting Eric’s father, Tom Riggs. They consider the West Shore Art Fair a can’t-miss event.

“I love the week of the Fourth of July, I love the art fair — this was our No. 1 thing to do today,” Eric said. “It’s close to the lake, you’ve got the marina right here and the carferry. … It’s just a wonderful spot.”

The two-day art fair is overseen by the Ludington Area Center for the Arts, and serves as the arts center’s biggest annual fundraiser, according to Andrew Skinner, LACA executive director and art fair manager.

Skinner said the event went off without a hitch.

“It was almost kind of eerie how smooth everything went,” he said, adding that artists and visitors both seemed delighted with how things turned out.

Skinner estimated that the art fair drew about 10,000 people throughout the course of the weekend.

Skinner summed up the event by saying that the art fair had a “great turnout,” and was “hassle-free.”

Patti Higinbotham, manager of Art Shop 107 at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts, was recruiting some of the West Shore Art Fair vendors with the goal of featuring their pieces in the shop. Higinbotham is planning a new monthly art “pARTy” set to take place from 5-7 p.m. the third Wednesday of the month at Art Shop 107. She found a few vendors at the art fair whose work might be included.


Each year, the West Shore Art Fair awards ribbons and $200 prizes to artists in a variety of mediums. Judges like Higinbotham were making the rounds on Saturday to pick the top artists in each category.

The winners, announced Saturday afternoon, are as follows:

• Clay: Autum Aslakson;

• Drawing: Paul King;

• Fiber: Judy Johnston;

• Glass: Meredith Wenzel;

• Jewelry: Emre Tekeli;

• Leather: Brigit Kowalczyk;

• Metals: Troy Anderson;

• Mixed media: Sean Corner;

• Painting: Kelly O’Neill-Dusome;

• Photography: Scott Sternberg;

• Printmaking: Petrus Martens;

• Wood: Robert Myrvall.

The winners will be automatically entered into next year’s art fair, which is already being planned out, according to Skinner.

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