51st annual Art in the Park dodges rain

Festival drenched only in colorful ambience

Leah Scheck and her son Caleb, 9, of Topeka, look at signs made from old license plates during the 51st annual Art in the Park on Sunday at South Park.

Cynthia Schmidt, Paola, places a vase on a display shelf as she sets up her booth at Art in the Park. Cloudy skies threatened rain all day, but the downpour held off until the event’s closing time.

Two-year-old Liam Sturm watches Nicolette Paige perform. Art in the Park featured art, music, food and a concurrent flying disc competition for dogs.

The 51st annual Art in the Park kicked off Sunday morning in South Park under cloudy skies with the possibility of rain and storms looming in the forecast.

“It’s been going really well, and as long as the rain stays away, I will be happy,” Jen Unekis, event coordinator and Lawrence artist, said Sunday afternoon.

Fortunately, the rain held off, and several thousand people attended the festival, which included live music, food and 136 vendors selling a variety of art. Among the offerings: scarves, jewelry, framed photographs, paintings, pottery, wooden birdhouses and clothing.

Theresa Shetler Logan, a Washburn Rural High School art teacher, made her debut in face painting at the event. She said she practiced on her daughters, ages 10 and 6, before the event.

“It has been pretty fun,” she said with a smile.

Stephanie Benalcazar, of Lawrence, and her 2-year-old daughter, Miriam, were among her customers. Although spirals and flowers were popular picks, Miriam wanted to be different so she chose a blue, not-so-scary-looking monster for her left cheek and a blue spider for her mom. The two have attended the festival for the past few years.

“We enjoy seeing all of the local art, and we get to play for a little bit,” Benalcazar said. Miriam showed off the new orange bracelet and said she liked the funnel cake.

So did Lawrence resident Nancy Kelley. “It’s a once a year treat,” she said as she took her first bite. Kelley hasn’t missed the festival since moving to Lawrence 10 years ago.

“I like the festivity of it. It looks like an Old English celebration, especially with the band playing. It’s great, and I love the art. I think Lawrence attracts some of the best artists,” she said.

After taking a hiatus, Lawrence artist Constance Ehrlich returned to Art in the Park this year to show off her new form of work, monoprints, which garnered a second-place award in the two-dimensional category at the festival. To make the monoprints, Ehrlich said she puts ink on a piece of Plexiglass and runs it though a press, then she adds collage elements. She said the works are faster and more spontaneous than her paintings.

“I am glad to be back, and I plan to start showing here again because it is a really great venue,” she said. “It’s just got a homey feel, and the music is great. It’s like a community event. It’s not just an art thing.”