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Californian Alla Tsank wins 2019 Art on the Square’s Best of Show award

Art on the Square 2019

Californian Alla Tsank, a painter, won the 2019 Art on the Square’s Best of Show award in Belleville, Illinois. The annual fair sees up to 75,000 attendees.
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Californian Alla Tsank, a painter, won the 2019 Art on the Square’s Best of Show award in Belleville, Illinois. The annual fair sees up to 75,000 attendees.

Many years ago, painter Alla Tsank first applied to be a featured artist at Belleville’s annual Art on the Square, but unfortunately, she was not chosen to participate in the fine arts festival then.

Though Tsank, who resides in Encinitas, California, was disappointed, she decided to apply again this year, just to see if she could make it to the fair, which has been in the top 1 percent of art fairs since its inception in 2002.

Tsank’s effort paid off. On Sunday, she was not only featured as an artist, but also awarded the Best of Show prize, winning $4,000.

“It’s an honor,” Tsank said of winning the grand prize. “I feel special.”

Art on the Square gives out $30,500 in awards to winners chosen from a pool of 105 featured artists. Kathy Kaiser, the program’s director of publicity, said a jury of professional judges sees anywhere from 800 to 1,000 applicants and narrows it down to the 105 that will be showcased.

Tsank paints with oil, and she said that her most recent works reflect things she sees in nature.

“I’ve always admired nature,” she said. “This work is females that are embraced by nature. I think that’s the direction I’ll stay in for a while.”

Tsank works on her art in a studio each year from October until March. Then, during the spring and summer, she travels to art shows. Though she’s had success with selling paintings from galleries before, she prefers the human interaction that happens at a fair like Art on the Square.

“I love the freedom of shows,” she said. “It’s such a unique experience to see how people react to the things I’ve made firsthand.”

Those reactions can be interesting for her, especially when people notice things in her art she hasn’t thought about before.

“It always surprises me when someone has a deeper perception of something in one of my paintings,” she said. “That’s the really wonderful part of showing your art directly to people like this — seeing their emotions and what they choose to focus on.”

A complete list of award winners for 2019’s Art on the Square is as follows:

  • Best of Show: ($4000): Alla Tsank
  • Ed and Helen Karasek Award ($1500): George Ceffalio
  • Joan Voss Renner Purchase Award ($2000): Debra Steidel
  • Mayor’s Choice Purchase Award ($1000): Jaana Mattson
  • Barb King Jewelry Award ($500): Jo Jennings

Best of Category Awards ($1500 each)

  • Ceramics: William Kidd
  • Digital/Graphic Design: Edward Loedding
  • Drawing/Printmaking: Marina Terauds
  • Fine Craft: Steven and Beth Radtke
  • Glass: Jeremy Griffith and Chelsea Foehr
  • Jewelry: Thomas McGurrin
  • Mixed Media: Jessica Stoddart-Ladd
  • Painting: Jon Smith
  • Photography: Brad Pogatetz
  • Sculpture: Scott Causey
  • Wood: Marilyn Endres

Awards of Excellence ($500 each, non-specific to category)

  • Larry Allen
  • Shawn Cornell
  • Deborah Falls
  • Joel Fremion
  • Katherine Goulandris and Michael Burris
  • Rebecca Hungerford
  • Robin Lauersdorf
  • Marvin Murphy
  • Nolan Prohaska
  • Chris and Katie Robelski
  • Charles Strain
  • Tyler Voorhees

Hana Muslic has been a public safety reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat since August 2018, covering everything from crime and courts to accidents, fires and natural disasters. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and her previous work can be found in The Lincoln Journal-Star and The Kansas City Star.

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