Fair Full of Treasures
Little-known competitions offer chances for artists to strut their stuff.
Using a special tool called a kistka, this artist puts the final touches on a Pysanki egg.
When you think county fair, what comes to mind? Corn dogs, cows, shiny new John Deere tractors? That’s what I thought, until I visited the Schuylkill County Fair in Summit Station, Pennsylvania.
The closest I’d been to a fair was reading Charlotte’s Web, but I decided a day at the fair would be fun for my animal-loving daughters. When my neighbor heard of our planned outing, she told us about her entries in the fair competitions. Since she always brought something delicious to church bake sales, I expected jars of preserves, fresh pies or maybe homemade dill pickles when we entered “her” building at the fair. I was amazed to see photographs, paintings and sculptures. An art gallery at the county fair?
Our neighbor was awarded several prizes for her paper art that year, and my family picked up a fair premium book – which includes the rules for entering – for our budding artists. The next year, after entering two pieces of handmade pottery and a charcoal drawing, my older daughter won two prizes. The year after that, my younger daughter won a photography prize. Living in an area where there aren’t many opportunities to exhibit art, my family now begins reading the premium book months before the fair rolls around.
Fairs in even the smallest communities offer wonderful opportunities for untrained dabblers of all ages. But there are also fine art and juried exhibitions at many larger fairs that attract the highest quality of art. These artists might be able to find a home for their work in established galleries, but family, jobs or, in the case of sculptor Dave Lane’s massive pieces, “the effort required to move these big things” keeps them closer to home. Although most compete in other shows and exhibit at galleries, the artists enjoy the friendly attitude at the fair. “It was a real pleasure,” says Christine Ramos of the California State Fair. “The staff and coordinators of the art program were very professional and personable, which is not always the case with art gallery owners.”