'A very nice show': Art on the Square draws big crowds to downtown Belleville

News-DemocratMay 18, 2013 

Earl James' tent at Art on the Square in downtown Belleville was bustling with activity Saturday afternoon as loyal customers purchased new pieces and others marveled over his blown glass creations with decorative imagery cased between the layers of glass.

James, who is from Cleveland, said Art on the Square is one of his favorite shows. He estimated he travels to a dozen shows each year. This year marked his fourth or fifth year at Art on the Square, he said.

"This is a very nice show," James said. "There's really good customer support." He said fans of his work frequently return to his tent to purchase more pieces.

James praised Art of the Square's Executive Director Patty Gregory. "She is amazing," he said. "She makes this show."

Gregory said this year's Art on the Square has been well attended since it opened Friday night. She said exact attendance numbers were not available Saturday afternoon.

"We have been very busy. We had people here before 10 a.m.," she said. "The artists I've spoken with are really pleased with how things are going."

Potter Gregg Rasmusson of St. Louis said his "sales have been solid."

This year's art show features more than 100 artists from all across the world. "We have a large variety of artists this year including a lot of new artists," Gregory said.

She described the weather Saturday as "fabulous." The high temperature peaked at 82 Saturday with a slight breeze, according to the National Weather Service. "We have been blessed with great weather," Gregory said.

Art on the Square continues from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The temperature will be warmer Sunday with a projected high of 90.

In addition to viewing and purchasing completed art work, Art on the Square attendees could also see pieces in different stages of creation.

Artist Nancy Young Spence with the Gateway East Artist's Guild spent three hours Saturday afternoon working on a clay cylindrical tree sculpture with a simple set of tools including a Popsicle stick, pencil, and wire end tools.

"It's so much fun," said Spence, of Columbia, who is a retired middle school art teacher. She currently works at Craft Alliance, a nonprofit arts education center in St. Louis.

Spence said she enjoys working with clay, because it's "so forgiving."

The piece Spence created at Art on the Square will be completed at Craft Alliance. Then she will "bring it home and decide what to do with it."

A clay sculpture she had on display was finished with paint and permanent marker. "My pieces are usually functional sculptures," she said.

Artists from the Gateway East Artist's Guild weren't the only ones at work during Art on the Square. Belleville Area Holzschnitzers -- which is German for wood carvers -- were busy carving different figurines out of wood as a large crowd gathered around their booth.

Children wearing and holding creations assembled in the Children's Art Garden were scattered throughout the thousands of attendees who descended downtown for the 12th annual art festival.

Elisha Arnold, of Columbia, brought her two children Lilly, 5, and Jack, 3, to Art on the Square along with her mother Julie Doerr of Waterloo.

Lilly and Jack were eagerly assembling an art puzzle with help from their grandmother Saturday afternoon. Students at Belleville East, High Mount, Emge and Cathedral Grade School created art depiction's of Belleville landmarks with historical significance. The art works were then cut into large wood puzzle pieces that can be reassembled by children throughout the weekend art festival.

Arnold said she tries to come to Art on the Square every year. She praised the volunteers in the children's area. "Everyone who volunteers to work at the children's art area is so nice and welcoming," she said. "They do the craft with them."

After spending an hour or so in the children's garden, Arnold said her mother and her were interested in looking at the art, especially the jewelry creations.

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or jforsythe1@bnd.com.

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or jforsythe1@bnd.com.

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