Artists, art lovers, and school art programs all came away winners during the Driftless Area Art Festival held in mid-September in Gays Mills. The festival, temporarily relocated from Soldiers Grove due to flood damage in the park there, offered the crowds sunny weather, the works of 77 visual artists, entertainment, and culinary treats, all from the Driftless region.
Several awards for excellence were made. The Best of Show Award, sponsored by J Gallery Interior Design Studio, La Crosse, recognizes overall excellence in both the art and the artistic presentation. The 2018 award went to Gordon Browning, who has been making lathe-turned hollow vessels since 2001, using the tools designed by David Ellsworth. Most the wood he uses is salvage and the shapes of his pieces naturally vary with the wood he collects.
Two Merit Awards, sponsored by State Street Gallery of La Crosse, went to Elin Haessly whose studio is at Viewpoint Farmers Fibers, uses wool from her own sheep, dying and weaving it to create a variety of scarves, vests, and rugs; and Lori Hungerholt of Root River Baskets in Rushford, Minnesota, whose hand-crafts baskets are functional as well as beautiful.
The People’s Choice Award, sponsored by VIVA Gallery Artist Cooperative of Viroqua, is selected each year by festival attendees. Photo artist Jamie Heiden of Holmen, Wisconsin, is a repeat winner, having won the award in four prior years: 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015. The award, based on tabulations of all ballots cast during the festival, will be presented during a spring 2019 VIVA Art Gallery program in Viroqua.
Teams of professional artists also spent several hours in the Youth Art tent and awarded blue ribbons and cash prizes in various categories.
The Teen Art Gallery awarded ribbons and various prizes. In first place was repeat winner Lane Buchner, a graduate of De Soto High School, student of Lindsey Kuennen, who won a ribbon and a $75 prize for her painting, “Intensified Embers.”
A second-place ribbon and $50 went to Mayleen Bibbey, 11th-grader at Kickapoo High School, for her painting “The Battle.”
A third-place ribbon and a $25 check went to Evan Gates, graduate of Lancaster High School, for his drawing titled “The Fighter.” Gates’ teacher was Gloria Fuller.
One hundred eighty elementary school students from 12 schools exhibited their work in the KidsArt Gallery, and in each of three categories one blue ribbon and several honorable mentions were awarded. Each of the three blue ribbon winners will receive a check for $25 and a framed copy of the winning piece. And all three pieces will be sold at live auction next year, with the proceeds going to the art programs in the students’ schools.
This year’s blue-ribbon winners include Auden Slaght, second-grader at Stoddard Elementary School; Abigail Kurszewski, fourth-grader at Stoddard; and Heaven Ottersen, eighth-grader at Kickapoo Elementary School. Slaght’s parents are Shayla Smith and Todd Slaght. Kurszewski’s parents are Jackie and Chad Kurszweski. Their art teacher is Meg Buchner. Heaven Ottersen’s mother is Mandy Shipman and her teacher is Heather Martin.
The 2017 winning pieces sold on Saturday evening of the 2018 art festival raised a total of $1,175 for the art programs in Winskill Elementary School in Lancaster, Kickapoo Middle School in Viola and Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School in Viroqua. That brings to a total of $12,010 the funds raised for art programs since 2010.
In addition, a yearly drawing held since 2014 includes all schools participating during the festival’s KidsArt Gallery. The 2018 winning school, Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School Sistrict, will receive $500 to go specifically to support the art program there, raising the total of funds raised in the drawings to $2,500.
“The combination of the exhibits at the festival and the funds raised in the art auction and the drawing celebrates arts in the schools and celebrates and supports the work of devoted art teachers, “ said Dianna Berry, co-chair of this year’s Youth Art Tent.