SOLDIERS GROVE - The 15thAnnual Driftless Area Art Festival, Saturday, Sept. 21 and Sunday, Sept. 22 in Soldiers Grove, had something for everyone–as well as special awards for both professional and youth artists.
Winds and rain threatened, but did not discourage several thousand art lovers and the 75 artists, who brought a wide variety of works from across the Driftless.
The 2019 award for Best in Show went to Amy Arnold of Viroqua, who creates human and animal figurative wood sculptures. She and her husband Kelsey Sauber Olds, a custom furniture artist, have been collaborating since 2012. Amy and Kelsey explore a balance between human and animal; wild and tame; crude and refined; movement and stability; humor and seriousness; adult and child; toy and art object. The award, sponsored by J Gallery Interior Design Studio, La Crosse, recognizes overall excellence in both the art and the artistic presentation.
The panel of judges also gave Merit Awards, sponsored by State Street Gallery in La Crosse, to Dan Weimer and Jill Johnson. Weimer, a painter from Red Wing, Minnesota, combines acrylics and watercolor to create unique, stylized landscapes. Johnson, of River Winds Farm and Fiber in Blair, Wisconsin, creates colorful hangings with the wool from her Cormo and Blue-faced Leicester sheep.
Earning Honorable Mention were John Craig, Toril Fisher, Herb Johnson, Wayne Ferra and Mya Madden. John Craig, Soldiers Grove, is known for his whimsical photo montages that focus on historical ‘happenings’ in the Driftless. Toril Fisher, LaFarge, focuses her acrylic paintings on nature. Maya Madden and Wayne Farra use themes from nature to create one-of-a-kind pieces at their No Rules Jewelry in Lone Rock.
Herb Johnson, in addition to earning an Honorable Mention, also earned the 2019 People's Choice Award. The People’s Choice Award, sponsored by VIVA Gallery Artist Cooperative of Viroqua, is selected each year by festival attendees. A metal smith from Alma, Johnson builds original handcrafted metal sculptures with nature themes.
Young artists also won a set of awards, presented in the Youth Art Tent. Blue Ribbons were won by artists in three categories, grade 1-3, 4-6, and 7-8. The three artists will each receive a $25 check and framed copies of their pieces.
The original works will be sold at A live auction during the 2020 Driftless Area Art Festival with proceeds going to each artist’s school. This year’s live auction netted a record $3,450, to benefit the art programs in the Stoddard and Kickapoo Schools. That brings the total to $15,312 art lovers have contributed to school art programs since 2010.
The 2019 Youth Art Blue Ribbon Winners included first grader Flynn Mendygral, of Kickapoo SchoolS in Viola. His teacher is Heather Martin. Another Blue Ribbon went to fifth grader Felicity Mitchell of St. Charles School in Genoa. Her teacher is Meg Buchner. A third Blue Ribbon went to eighth grader Emma Schmidt of North Crawford School in Gays Mills. Her teacher is Brandie Myhre. In a new category, 3-D Art, Perpetua Mitchell of St. Charles in Genoa won a Blue Ribbon. Her teacher is Meg Buchner.
High school students also exhibited their works and 12thgrader Ava Brosinski of DeSoto High School won the First Place Ribbon and a check for $75. A Second Place Ribbon and a check for $50 went to Gracie Miller of Kickapoo High School in Viola; and Marieke Kuchenbecker, an exchange student from Germany studying at DeSoto High School, won the Third Place Ribbon and a check for $25. Lindsey Kuennen is the art teacher at DeSoto. Heather Martin teaches at Kickapoo High School.Major funding Partners for the festival include Peoples State Bank, the Village of Soldiers Grove and its Community Development Corporation, Crawford County, Go Macro, Community Development Alternatives Inc., and Wisconsin Public Radio. Benefactors include J Company Design Studio, La Crosse Tent and Awning, Organic Valley Family of Farms, Richland-Grant Telephone Cooperative, Rooted Spoon Culinary, Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperative, Sleepy Hollow Auto, Star Valley Flowers, plus many other sponsors at the Patron and Supporter levels.