Wichita’s biggest fine art event will not only be celebrating the coming of fall and an appreciation of art, but marking a milestone. Autumn & Art turns 10 this year.
The free three-day festival is Sept. 13 to 15 at Bradley Fair in northeast Wichita. Artist booths are open 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Here are 10 things to know about this year’s event.
1. Three partners have put on the festival all 10 years.
Wichita Festivals, Inc. came up with the idea to stage a fine art festival in Wichita, but they needed buy in from two important partners to make it happen, said Janet Wright, who was president & CEO of Wichita Festivals, Inc. when Autumn & Art debuted in 2010. She retired in 2012.
First, Clay Bastian, a board member for Wichita Festivals, Inc. at the time, set up a meeting with his brother Clark Bastian and their family-owned Fidelity Bank became title sponsor of the event, providing the financial backing to organize the event.
Equally important, Clay Bastian made the introduction for Wright to talk to developer George Laham about hosting the event at Bradley Fair.
“Bradley Fair is the premier location in Wichita for an event like this,” Wright said. “Wichita Festivals would not have been successful with this event without the commitment from Clay Bastian and Clark Bastian at Fidelity Bank, and without George Laham and Bradley Fair.”
It’s the only festival held at Bradley Fair, and the largest event for the open-air shopping and dining development.
“The Wichita community has embraced this event, like they do with our other events at Bradley Fair, and they are a key reason that it has grown from 60 artists and 10,000 attendees to 100 artists and over 30,000 attendees,” said Amy Liebau, COO for Laham Development.
2. It was modeled after Denver’s Cherry Creek Arts Festival.
Best known for staging the annual Riverfest, Wichita Festivals, Inc. was looking to add an event opposite that long-running springtime tradition. Wright, who retired from the nonprofit in 2012, said her staff began researching ideas in 2009 before zeroing in on the concept of an art festival.
They visited nearby festivals, like Kansas City’s Plaza Arts Festival and Saint Louis Art Fair, and while on vacations various staff checked out other big art events in California, Texas and Colorado.
“Cherry Creek Art Festival in Denver was a model in some ways,” Wright said. “I had got acquainted with the man who started and ran that one, and they had a great website so that event was a great resource.”
While Cherry Creek Art Festival was also held at a shopping center, it is supported by a much larger Denver metro population. The Autumn & Art concept had to be customized and scaled to fit the Wichita market.
3. Three artists have appeared at all 10 events.
Three artists have been invited to participate each year since the festival’s inception: Edward Bartoszek, a graphics artist and printmaker from Mission, Kan.; Mark Mallia, a woodworker based in Austin, Texas; and Randy Napier, a photographer living in Grafton, N.D.
All three said the event was a success from the start, from their perspective.
“It’s been well organized from the beginning, even the first year it seemed like they knew what they were doing and that’s not always the case,” said Mallia, who travels to about 20 shows each year.
Added Bartoszek: “I attend about 10 to 12 shows a year, and for an artist consistency is important when traveling for shows. You’ll see shows try a lot of things that don’t always work. Wichita’s show has always been consistent. They studied it hard and came up with good concept and stuck with it.”
Autumn & Art ranks at the top of their list for shows that treat artists well, and it is an above average show when it comes to sales, all three said.
“It’s a nice layout in a nice setting,” said Napier, who takes his art to 20 shows a year. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years and what stands out to me about Autumn & Art is the effort the organizers put into accommodating us and making us feel welcome. Some shows, you may never see anyone from the organizing team. For Wichita, that means you’re going to get better quality art and artists from all over the country.”
4. There will be 100 artists showing work in 14 media.
This year’s 100 invited artists represent 22 states, including 24 who are based in Kansas, and will compete for cash awards totaling $7,000. You can see and buy artwork representing ceramics, digital art, drawing, fiber, glass, graphics and printmaking, jewelry, metalworks, painting, photography, sculpture, wood, 2D mixed media and 3D mixed media.
The artists are evaluated by a panel of jurors, which this year included Wichita-based artists Rollin Karg and Reuben Saunders as well as Patricia McDonnell, executive director of the Wichita Art Museum and Bob Workman, retired director of the Ulrich Museum of Art at Wichita State University.
5. The number of artists is capped, attendance continues to grow.
Autumn & Art maxes out at right around 100 artists. Organizers say they want to keep the event in the current footprint along the portion of Bradley Fair Parkway that runs between the lake and the nearby residential neighborhood.
Artists enjoy the setting as much as the attendees, and the size seems to fit the Wichita market. It also allows for interaction with the artists that is sometimes missing at larger shows.
“Autumn and Art provides a unique opportunity to interact with the artists face to face,” said Clark Bastian, chairman and CEO of the event’s title sponsor, Fidelity Bank. “My wife Sharon and I have met countless artists who bring their inspired work to our community. We look forward to it every year.”
Last year’s attendance hit 30,000, an increase of 1,000 over 2017 numbers and 5,000 more than 2015 attendance.
6. The Patron Party requires tickets, the rest of the festival is free to attend.
Business sponsorships and individuals who become patrons for $140 per person allow Wichita Festivals, Inc. to keep the event free to the public.
The patron experience includes reserved parking and free wine, beer and soft drinks throughout the festival, plus access to the ticketed opening-night party. Teri Mott, director of Marketing and Communication for Wichita Festivals, Inc. said this year’s Patron Party will have special 10th anniversary surprises and live music by Uptown Violins. It happens from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, and includes gourmet food from Redrock Canyon Grill, Newport Grill and YaYa’s Eurobistro as well as specialty wine and spirits.
7. Food is available at nearby restaurants.
A change this year is that Bradley Fair restaurants won’t be selling food within the parkway, instead attendees are encouraged to walk to the restaurants and shops within the shopping and dining development.
There will be three stations within the festival area where you can purchase wine, beer, water, soft drinks and light snacks. They accept cash or credit card.
The center parkway bar will offer “The Art of Bloody Marys,” an $8 build-your-own bar from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
8. Kids will love Artie.
Find Artie, a cartoon art-collecting squirrel, and you’ve found family friendly activities. These are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. Artie’s Art Studio offers free make-and-take art projects directed by Mark Arts educators. Artie’s Masterpiece Games are set up to introduce kids to classic works of art. A new addition this year is storytime at 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. both days, next to Artie’s Art Studio. These are 20 minute storytelling sessions with book giveaways, while supplies last.
9. There’s live entertainment.
Live entertainment happens every day on the festival stage. You can enjoy it while strolling through the booths, or take a seat at the Chill & Charge Lounge not too far from the stage.
The lineup ranges from local musicians to dance troupes and theater. Performances begin at 10 a.m. Saturday with Poke Salad Orchestra and the last act, Tropical Shores steel drum band, starts at 5:30 p.m. On Sunday, Metropolitan Ballet starts the day at 11:30 a.m. and the final performance is Bruce Huss, an acoustic solo guitarist and singer/songwriter, at 3:30 p.m. Find a full schedule online at autumnandart.com.
From 10 a.m. to noon on Sunday, you can watch a live radio broadcast in the lounge of Steve Bauer’s Sunday Jazz Brunch that airs on B98.
10. Free games and demonstrations are scheduled, too.
All ages can play lawn games on the east side of the parkway on Saturday and Sunday during the festival hours. There are oversized versions of Jenga, Connect Four and dominos, plus croquet. Mark Arts hosts a demonstration tent at Autumn & Art. On Saturday and Sunday they’ll have artists and art instructors demonstrating in several fine art media, from painting to pottery.
Autumn & Art
When: 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15.
Where: Bradley Fair
How much: Free to attend all three days. Tickets to the Friday evening patron party are $140.