Art in the Park returns this weekend amid ‘rebuilding year’ for Lawrence Art Guild’s event
photo by: Richard Gwin
Cheyenne Bartz had always been drawn — pun intended — to creative pursuits from an early age. From the time she could hold a pencil in her tiny hand, she was also reaching for a paintbrush.
Instead of joining her classmates on the playground at recess, Bartz would stay inside and command an audience of girlfriends, who would watch her intently as she brought to life on paper the images they’d requested.
“They were almost mesmerized by it,” recalls Bartz, 32, whose artistic inclinations made her somewhat of an oddity in her small central-Kansas town. “They would just sit there and watch me.”
photo by: Richard Gwin
At the time, her commissions were usually waterfalls and “Lisa Frank sort of stuff,” she says, because this was the early 1990s, and little girls loved their high-chroma unicorns and tiger cubs and panda bears.
These days, she’s still fascinated by the natural world, and is happily exploring her two loves — science and art — with her studies in ecology and evolutionary biology at Washburn University.
“Looking at a specimen under a microscope is actually a beautiful little world on its own,” Bartz says.
Despite her busy schedule, Bartz has kept up with her painting and drawing and will exhibit her work, along with more than 100 other artists, at this weekend’s Art in the Park.
Slated for Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in South Park, the latest cycle of the Lawrence Art Guild’s annual juried arts-and-crafts exhibition — which will also feature live music, food vendors and children’s activities — has fallen amid a bit of a “rebuilding year,” says Art in the Park coordinator Jennifer Unekis.
In January, former officers called an emergency meeting to discuss financial irregularities and insufficient guild leadership. After years of dwindling membership and participation in events like Art in the Park and the guild’s holiday arts show, the public has rallied behind the Art Guild with “amazing support,” Unekis says, and the results are palpable.
Since the January meeting, the guild’s membership has shot up from “around 30 to something over 200,” she says. The Art Guild has also received nearly $4,000 in grants from the city of Lawrence to fund marketing efforts for Art in the Park. The number of artists participating in this year’s event is nearly double that of last year’s, according to data reported by Unekis at the January meeting.
“It’s been a really strong community event, and it would have been pretty tragic to let it fall apart,” she says of Art in the Park, which Unekis had coordinated on and off from 1997 to 2013 before taking up the job again this year. “It took some great measures and some quick-moving measures and some pretty harsh measures in order to pull it back from where it was and the management it was under.”
“Where it was,” Unekis told her fellow guild members earlier this year, was far removed from the Art in the Park of years past, when the event attracted more than 140 artists — some formally trained, some not — from the Lawrence community during its first incarnation as an indoor arts show in 1962.
“It was the talk of the town,” original guild vice president Joyce Schild recalled in a written history of the event, which was regarded at the time as both elegant — ladies showed up in dresses and hats, and attendees were handed silk-screened programs — and populist.
The show was open to all Douglas County residents 18 and up who could spare $1 for yearly dues to the Art Guild.
“The reason why they started it was because they had so many people who wanted to do it — the garbage man and the hair stylist and a variety of people who didn’t professionally show as artists in a gallery. It’s always been a mix,” says Unekis. “For a lot of artists, it’s the only event they’ll do all year. They don’t want to do the big art fair circuit, but they really want to do Art in the Park.”
Sunday will mark Cheyenne Bartz’s “second or third” appearance at the event, where she’ll sell mostly watercolors and chunky pieces of jewelry (copper, brass and mixed-metal pendants and necklaces that resemble “something an art teacher would wear,” Bartz says) that she crafted as an art student at Kansas University.
The pressures of “trying to sell myself and make that my living” became too much for her eventually, and she took a step back from art for a while. But Bartz, realizing she could still enjoy art as a creative outlet without pursuing a life as a career artist, came back to it eventually. She even makes money with her talents as an instructor at Painted Kanvas and through events like Art in the Park.
After graduation, Bartz says she’d like to find a job that combines art and science, ideally in conservation. A few years back, she heard about a series of projects at two East Coast universities that used invasive tree species to create environmentally friendly art.
“They had to work together, and it brought art to the science students and science to the art students. The implications of it are huge,” she says. “We could do this in Kansas.”
If you go
What: Art in the Park
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. In the event of a rainout, the fair will be rescheduled for Sunday, May 8. Rain cancellation will be announced Sunday morning on KLWN 1320AM radio, the Lawrence Art Guild’s Facebook page and at 760-4800 by 7:00 a.m.
Where: The east side of South Park
Cost: Entry is free
The full artist list and map for this year's Art in the Park is ready! Please share! Click here for the list and to…
A previous version of the info box included an incorrect location for the event. Art in the Park will be held on the eastern, gazebo side of South Park, between Massachusetts and New Hampshire streets.