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A certified studio member of Muddy Waters Clay Center in Grand Forks Al Boucher mends and molds a piece of clay Saturday during the Grand Cities Art Festival in Grand Forks. (Luke Franke/ Grand Forks Herald)

Grand Cities Art Fest fills downtown with artisans, patrons

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There are many reasons Shelly Wasylow has been drawn to attend the Grand Cities Art Fest, but one reason above all has brought her back to the annual event for about eight years.


“I come back for the creativity, said Wasylow, a resident of Grand Forks. “There are different artists every year with something new.”

Now in its 12th year, the Art Fest continues today, with about 160 artists showcasing their work along the Red River in downtown Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.

Wasylow and her family are among the 30,000 visitors expected to walk through the two-day art festival, according to Cindy Edwards, president of the North Valley Arts Council.

“It’s grown in every aspect,” Edwards said. “This shows (Grand Forks) is a lot more welcoming than people know.”

Despite a forecast of rain and cool temperatures, Edwards said the various pottery, painting, jewelry and textiles — among many other specialty items — on display are an attraction for both vendors and visitors alike.

“It’s a great way to get people here,” she said. “It draws a big crowd and we have a diverse set of artists.

A place for arts

Among the variety of art for attendees to enjoy is a mix-and-match collection of paintings, jewelry and photographs crafted by Angela Vrolyk, who was nominated by NoVAC as a 2014 emerging artist.

 “I get my fingers into too much stuff,” said a laughing Vrolyk. “I’m a little indecisive so I do it all.”

The festival is her first art showing. Vrolyk, who will attend the University of Minnesota to begin studying engineering in the fall, said she has never taken an art class, but instead picked up the hobby when she got sick in high school and had to give up her first hobby, music.

“Art became my thing,” she said. “I’ve got a little too much time on my hands, so I guess that’s where my inspiration comes from.”

Blending inspiration with science and art is Jim Ulmer, who is showcasing his array of handmade stoneware products.

“Art festivals expand your horizons, it gives you new perspectives,” said Ulmer, who has been crafting clay for 40 years. In that time, Ulmer estimates he has turned about three tons of clay into pots each year.

This marks the third year Ulmer has showcased his work at the Grand Cities Art Fest. Ulmer, who is recognized as 2014 Best of Category artist for ceramics, said each art festival is special in its own way.

“I love art fairs,” Ulmer said. “I like how people hold my work, feel it, talk about it, buy it and take it home with them.”