Art in the Park: 30th year for Copper Harbor event

Garrett Neese/ Daily Mining Gazette Shirley Jackson of Ontonagon browses rings.

COPPER HARBOR — As folk music drifted across the green, people milled around booths for a piece of art to catch their eye during Art in the Park’s 30th anniversary fair this weekend.

About 60 artists showed their wares Saturday and Sunday, including at least three who have been at the show for 25 years, said organizer Johanna Davis.

While most artists are from the Midwest, some from as far away as Louisiana and Texas.

Those artists work in many media, such as textiles, ceramics, hand-forged metal items, photography and soaps, Davis said.

“There’s a lot of pretty talented artisans,” she said. “Even the jewelers vary quite a bit in their work.”

Garrett Neese/ Daily Mining Gazette Some of Eric Davis’s ceramics are on display.

While the attendance is hard to determine, Davis said, many people come from the Copper Country and further.

“White Water (the musical act), they draw quite the crowd,” she said. “There’s people who come from Iowa to this event just to see them.”

In addition to music, people also ate foods from Toni’s Country Kitchen and the Copper Harbor Fire Department, for whom the fair is the largest fundraiser of the year.

One of the longest-running exhibitors is Eric Davis, who has been coming to the fair for 20 years. A Copper Country native who now lives in Kalamazoo, he started making ceramics in the early 1990s as a student at Western Michigan University.

He turns regular clay on the pottery wheel, then adds a glaze of powdered glass emulsed in water.

Garrett Neese/ Daily Mining Gazette Barb Thomas of Wood Den Toys & Crafts blows a bubble.

“Then I put it in another big kiln that gets fired up at 2,000 degrees, everything melts and looks pretty,” he said.

The pieces only take a minute or two on the wheel, but completing the process takes about a month.

The fair has kept growing over the years, he said.

“It’s always good to see the quality stay at a good, high level, which it’s always been around here,” he said. “It’s like minimal change, which is what I like about it.”

Brian Hirvela was at the festival for the first time. He’s been making art from Lake Superior wood and repurposed metals since he moved back to the area four years ago.

“This is my winter therapy,” he said. “It keeps me from having seasonal disorder, I guess. I’m evolving as I go, because I’m using what I have.”

Shirley Jackson, who hosts at the campground in Copper Harbor, came to the show for the first time. She had not gotten anything yet but liked the woven rugs.

“It’s pretty big for an art show,” she said.

Something about Copper Harbor draws the artists and crowds back ever year, Davis said.

“The artists enjoy coming up and spending time in the area, and for people who come up to the Keweenaw during the summer, that’s a highlight for them,” she said.

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