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Art festival celebrates regional talent
painting for web

The Ninth Annual Driftless Area Art Festival offers something for visitors of all ages. It will feature visual, culinary and performing art from across the Driftless region, the land never touched by the glaciers, which includes much of southwestern Wisconsin, and also parts of southeastern Minnesota, northeastern Iowa and northwestern Illinois.  

The festival, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 14 and Sunday, Sept. 15, will be held in the Beauford T. Anderson Park, located in Soldiers Grove. The event will showcase works by 80 visual artists who will bring drawings and prints, ceramics, fiber, glass, jewelry, metalworks, mixed media, oil and watercolor paintings, pastels, photography, wood carvings, turnings, furniture and sculpture.

Festivalgoers can meet the artists and browse through their booths. They can also vote for their favorite artists for the People’s Choice Award, sponsored by VIVA Gallery in Viroqua, and announced soon after the close of the festival. A second cash prize, the Committee’s Choice Award, sponsored by State Street Gallery in LaCrosse, will be announced on Saturday of the festival. 

Individuals and businesses who want to get an early look and an early chance to buy can sign up for the Purchase Award program, committing in advance to buy a designated amount at the festival. Artists get 100 percent of the commitment and a ribbon. Purchase awards help boost sales, and the early birds can enter the grounds an hour before the official Saturday opening to pick exceptional art for their homes or businesses.

Besides the works of the professional artists, more than 600 pieces by Driftless Area young artists will be on exhibit in the KidsArt Gallery. Three prize-winning pieces will chosen, to be purchased and auctioned later to raise money for the young artists’ schools’ art programs. The KidsArt Gallery tent will also feature creative art activities throughout the festival’s two days. In a special section for teen artists’ pieces, winners will be selected for cash and art materials prizes.

Culinary art, by area chefs, bakers, brewers and vintners will please customers throughout the weekend. Vendors will include Apple’licious Pie Depot of Gays Mills, Mary’s Berries of Ferryville, Homegrown Pizza of Readstown, The Dawghouse of Lynxville, JeanLuc Rondeaux’s French crepes, Kickapoo Coffee, and the Soldiers Grove Lions Club with Crawford County Restorative Justice providing wraps and full dinners.   

Performing artists will entertain on the main stage.  Saturday will feature Jane Keeley and The River Ramblers in the morning and Julie Patchouli and Bruce Kecksel in the afternoon. Sunday’s morning entertainers are Big Blue Sky, John Travers and ensemble. In the afternoon, String Ties, Dan Sebranek and ensemble, will entertain.

The Festival, which in 2012 drew over 5,500 people, relies each year on a team of more than 60 volunteers. They help staff booths, provide support for the artists, and assist festivalgoers. And, as one volunteer who helps every year put it, “It gives me a chance to be part the art world by working with the artists and helping to share their work with my friends and neighbors.”   

Major funding partners for the festival include Peoples State Bank, Community Development Alternatives, the Village of Soldiers Grove and its Community Development Corporation, and Wisconsin Public Radio.  Other benefactors include Dependable Solutions, Inc., Organic Valley Family of Farms, Rooted Spoon Culinary, Richland Grant Telephone Cooperative, Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperative, and Sleepy Hollow Auto.

Admission is free, and there’s ample free, convenient parking. Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Full details, including a complete list of visual artists, performing artists, food vendors, partners and sponsors plus information on becoming a Friend, a volunteer or a purchase award patron, is available at