Midwest Salute to the Arts celebrates 25th anniversary with food, music and 100 artists

News-DemocratAugust 24, 2013 

— Karen Fernandez Salvador has been attending the Midwest Salute to the Arts since its inception at Moody Park at Longacre more than two decades ago.

Fernandez Salvador said she keeps coming back year after for a simple reason: "The quality is wonderful and it's different every year," said Fernandez Salvador, of Fairview Heights.

The art fair reached a major milestone over the weekend, with the celebration of its 25th anniversary, which is a big deal, according to Sharon Kassing, the show director this year.

"We've been the longest-running show in the area," Kassing said. "And the fact we do it outdoors, in big white tents and the fact we take over an entire ball field. A lot of people don't realize it's a ball field when we set it up."

At least 45,000 people were expected to visit the art fair over the event's run from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, Kassing said.

As in previous years, special juries picked 100 artists from online applicants representing 11 types of media -- including clay, glass, watercolors, wood and jewelry , according to Kassing.

The artists who showed up came from all over Illinois and Missouri, as well as Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, Arkansas and California, she said.

The strong artist turnout stems from" the uniqueness of the show" and from the fact "we've been around for a very long time," Kassing said.

One of the big lessons she's learned in her first year as show director is "that it takes the entire team," she said. "We have phenomenal sponsors, the city of Fairview Heights, the (City) Council -- we have 300 volunteers. Everybody has a job, and they're just outstanding."

Another plus for the art fair is the high quality of the live music that's on offer at three stages.

Kassing noted that nationally known recording artist Erin Bode was the headliner Friday night, while Fairview Heights vocalist Kim Massie -- a fixture in the downtown St. Louis music scene -- and her band dominated the stage Saturday afternoon.

"We go local, we try to be eclectic," Kassing said. "We try to look for names that we hear locally, people suggest names."

St. Louis artist Joy Yarbrough, who specializes in cutting silhouettes of people, trees and animals, said she decided to sell her art at the Midwest Salute because of its reputation.

"It's got good jurying and good quality," she said. "It's a very good quality show. It provides exposure and I hand out a business cards, too."

One of the busiest places at the Midwest Salute on Saturday was the Creation Station, where parents and their young kids conjured their own art.

Laura Robison, of O'Fallon, watched her two daughters, ages, 7 and 9, decorate boxes that will be sent to military personnel overseas as part of a collaboration between the fair, Enjoy Church of Alton and VFW Post 8677 Ladies Auxiliary.

"This is our first year," Robison said. "It's very nice."

Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at mfitzgerald@bnd.com or 618-239-2533.

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