Art Fest draws huge crowdsFoot traffic across the Red River in downtown Grand Forks and East Grand Forks is plentiful this weekend as art and craft enthusiasts take in the 10th annual Altru Health System Grand Cities Art Fest.
By: TJ Jerke, Grand Forks Herald
Foot traffic across the Red River in downtown Grand Forks and East Grand Forks is plentiful this weekend as art and craft enthusiasts take in the 10th annual Altru Health System Grand Cities Art Fest.
The two-day event began Saturday and runs through today from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The festival takes up the downtown square in Grand Forks and fills the Greenway and Cabelas parking lot in East Grand Forks. It features original works by 160 artists and artisans, live entertainment on two stages, artist demonstrations and children’s activities.
“Within ten years, this has to be the best show I’ve ever seen grow so fast,” said Andy Van Schyndle, a 2012 featured artist. “There’s a lot of energy, which really makes the show.”
Marie Strinden, executive director of the North Valley Arts Council, said the festival is comparable to last year, with it on track to see 40,000 visitors. Twenty more artists were also added to the lineup from last year with 90 percent of all the vendors returning.
“We want to make Grand Forks a place where people want to come and stay and spend money — a destination city,” Strinden said. “Events like this really contribute to that, it’s definitely a family thing — it has always been a family event.”
Susan and Tom Goosen, of Grand Forks, were waiting for their grandkids Saturday afternoon on the town square. Susan Goosen said the festival is a family affair, “from young to old, it’s kind of multigenerational,” she said.
“It’s good the children are exposed to this,” Susan Goosen said. “It’s great for our younger generation to be able to appreciate and see art and artists that are out there and inspire them.”
Strinden said 200 volunteers and 10 chair people helped make the festival, and the city contributed as well. The arts council, or NoVAC, received a $12,000 special event grant from the city for this year’s festival. As a result, the city benefitted tremendously, she said.
“The festival continues to stimulate the downtown economy,” she said. “We turned the grant into one million dollars and gave it back in the form of tourist dollars.”
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Van Schyndle, who has sold his surrealist paintings at the festival the past five years, said he was honored and excited to be a featured artist this year.
He said the downtown atmosphere provides a fun element to the weekend, which keeps him coming back. The restaurants and his campsite at Red River State Recreation Area in EGF make up for the 10-hour drive from Algoma, Wis.
“I’d rather do this than a show in downtown Chicago,” Van Schyndle said. “I come here and have a lot more fun.”
Van Schyndle describes his work as fantasy surrealism, painting different images that he thinks of while dreaming. He calls it therapy because, “I have to get it out of my head, otherwise I get a little crazy,” he said.
His work can be seen on the cover of the Art Fest booklet and at his booth across from the stage in the town square.
Like Van Schyndle, Andy Hall, a photographer from St. Paul, is back for another round at the art festival.
Hall photographs landscape and flowers and has been touring art shows for the past nine years.
He said this festival is a good show that’s very profitable.
“The people here are great, they take care of me very well,” Hall said. “There are other shows I could be doing, but I like coming here.”
The weekend was also the pre-grand opening of the artist studio space and gallery next to the NoVAC offices along Third Street, Strinden said. Artists will be able to purchase memberships and have their own key to the studio to work whenever they want to, she said.
Reach Jerke at (701) 787-6736; (800) 477-6572, ext. 6736; or send email to email@example.com.