Arts & Culture

Art and Book Fair a ‘destination event’

A staple Mother’s Day event continues in Wichita this weekend with the 53rd Annual Art and Book Fair. The affair, organized by Friends of the Wichita Art Museum, aims to offer high-quality, original art to the public while raising funds for the museum. Attendance has become a ritual for many. This year’s festival will feature added activities as patrons carry on the tradition of art and book shopping on Saturday and Sunday at Century II’s Exhibition Hall.

“Every year, we focus on bringing in high-quality art and fine crafts by finding the most talented artisans we can,” Friends of the Wichita Art Museum chairman Scott Hampel said. “We’ve developed a reputation for being a destination event.”

Sentimental attachments run deep, he said.

“For many people, bringing their mothers to this is a tradition,” Hampel said. “They come, spend some time with Mom, buy her a gift, enjoy downtown and perhaps go out to eat. It’s a special community event that’s a bit different from other art-related offerings we have in town.”

Organizers are excited about some of the new and expanded proceedings this year. One of the highlights will be a special exhibition of more than a dozen cars from the British Car Club of Wichita. That will take place Saturday on Century II’s Kennedy Plaza. There also will be music each day from local bands, including Trevor Stewart, Bruce Huss and The Shoes. Vendor booths will be scattered throughout and will feature Cero’s Chocolate, Kernel’s Popcorn Express and Jumpy Monkey Coffee. Kids also can design a Mother’s Day card, and Wichita artist Jaki McElroy will be doing caricatures.

“She can do a caricature in two minutes. That’s the quickest draw in the Midwest,” Hampel joked of McElroy’s reputation for being able to produce speedy and humorous sketches.

These additions are part of a broader, more recent theme of change for the Art and Book Fair. Though it’s always been a distinct event, this will be the second consecutive year when it won’t coincide with the Wichita River Festival. Hampel said the decision to continue the event in May rather than move it to June to align it with Riverfest activities was well received by event-goers last year. He estimates that more than 1,500 people attended each day.

“Both the artists and the attendees felt it was much more enjoyable on its own,” he said. “Parking was easier, and getting around was much more relaxed. People who have made it a destination event for years still came. The artists really appreciated having a crowd focused on their work and craftsmanship. If we had any vendors who were skeptics last year, they’re coming this year.”

Hampel pointed to the uptick in artists this year as proof. Last year’s Art and Book Fair saw around 90 total artists. This year, space has filled up to capacity, with more than 120 artists planning to attend. They’ll be coming from all across the country, too. Artists from Colorado, Florida, Delaware, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas will be among those exhibiting. Their works will span a variety of mediums, covering painting, photography, sculpture, jewelry, drawing, fiber, metal and more. Juried prizes will be awarded in each category.

“The goal of our group is to support the museum, and we do that by exposing people to art. It’s less imposing for some to come to this fair and interact with art than it is to go to a museum,” Hampel said. “Our hope is that we can show all art is accessible. The museum has activities going on all the time to draw in the public. This is another way to expose the community to art.”

In addition to the art, the fair’s book sale attracts a significant amount of buzz each year. Serious collectors and reading enthusiasts can browse thousands of books that have been donated to the museum. Books spanning all genres are sold for 50 cents to $5. For those wanting first pick of the selection, there will be an early-bird special from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday. Although admission to the rest of the fair is free, admission to the early-bird special is $5.

“This is a great event for mothers, children and families,” Hampel said.