Art fair shoppers don't miss Riverfest

Sometimes, a little separation can be a good thing.

That's what attendees and organizers of the 52nd Art, Book and Craft Fair said Saturday morning when the annual show opened on its regular weekend but without its regular partner — the Wichita River Festival.

The event, organized by the Friends of the Wichita Art Museum, gathers art vendors at Century II to display and sell their wares.

For the past 40 years, the event has been affiliated with the River Festival and traditionally has taken place both inside and outside Century II during the festival's first weekend.

When the festival decided to move to early June this year, the fair decided to stay put.

A half-hour after opening the doors, organizers said they could tell they'd made the right decision.

Hundreds of people milled about, purchases in hand, checking out vendors of art glass, jewelry, photography, paintings, sculpture and more.

"The size of the crowd is about what we targeted," said co-organizer Abe Rodriguez. "In fact, it's even stronger now than it was at this time last year."

The fair, held entirely indoors rather than spilling out onto Kennedy Plaza as it traditionally had, featured 123 vendors — down from 145 last year.

Organizers intentionally cut back on the show's size so that the artists could all comfortably fit into Century II's Exhibition Hall.

The change gave the fair more of an upscale art show feel, Rodriguez said, and that's another thing organizers were hoping for.

River Festival crowds and art-buying crowds are not made up of the same people, and participating artists had complained that too many of the shoppers had become touchers but not buyers.

Kelley Nelson of Newton was among the first shoppers on Saturday morning and found some jewelry she liked right away.

The split from the River Festival was a good thing, she said, and not just because she was able to find a close parking space with little effort.

"I like it not being at the River Festival," she said. "River Festival has so much going on, and a lot of this gets overlooked. There's so much here, and it needs to be celebrated."

If you go

52nd art, book and craft fair

What: A juried art, book and craft fair organized by the Friends of the Wichita Art Museum to benefit programming and exhibits

Where: Century II Exhibition Hall, 225 W. Douglas

When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. today

How much: Admission is free.

For more information, including details and times on lectures, visit http://wichitaartmuseum.org/artBookFair.

Art, Book and Craft Fair winners

Winners of the juried show were chosen Saturday morning. They were:

Best of show: Infinity Glass, Scott Hartley, Benton

Photography: John Morrison, Wichita

Jewelry: Nena Potts, Rogersville, Mo.

Painting and drawing: Brian Swayze, Wichita

Clay: Michael Schlyer, Wichita

Sculpture: Dale Roark, Augusta

Fiber: Von Rhodes, Kechi

Craft: Eric Abraham, Lucas