With the summer tourist season barely out of the starting gate, North Kingstown, and the Wickford arts community are already flying down the track.
First there was the HistWick Garden Tour where organizers only printed up 500 tickets —they were waiting to see how the relaxing of the pandemic restricts would work out.
HistWick, however, ended up having to print up an additional 500 tickets on the day of the tour as gardeners, and those that love gardens, packed the town from all over New England.
Next up was the North Kingstown Recreation Department’s fireworks display and Lafayette Band concert at the town beach, which saw more than 1,000 people tap their toes to the music and “ohh” and “ahhh” at the fireworks.
And this past weekend, about 10,000 people filed through the gates at Wilson Park during the course of the two-day art festival.
With lingering concern about covid, festival organizers decided to move the event off the streets and into Wilson Park.
According to Annalisa Daly, the event’s organizer, “we looked at moving it to the high school, keeping it on town streets or taking it Wilson Park, and the park won out.”
Not only were art lovers happy with the new location because it gave them more room to inspect the offerings of the 170 vendors in attendance, but to the merchants along Main and Brown streets were pleased as well — in the past they have often voiced concern about the fronts of their shops being blocked by art booths.
Sixty percent of the artists were from across Rhode Island, but exhibitors came from far and wide, Daly said. The artist who trekked the furthest was a wood carver from Alabama, Daly added.
While both days of the event were free admission, the $260 per booth rental for members of the arts organization, and $310 for non-members goes to support the event. Daly said the Wickford Art Association pays for police overtime to patrol the event and direct traffic, and the town’s Department of Public Works to help set up and break down the event.
“It was team work with the town and volunteers to make this a success,” Daly said.
A portion of the proceeds also funds scholarships. The winners of which displayed the most interesting art of the event.
The three scholarship winners, all from Rhode Island were Ella Ross, Elizabeth Cowart and Page Sullivan, who featured work in mixed media, photography and ink portraits.
Most of the art featured by the other artists at the show consisted of beach and boat photography and paintings of boats and the beach, but the three students featured more unique takes on life.
“The scholarships offered by the art group were more personal than those offered by other organizations,” Cowart said.
In addition to money, the scholarship recipients were given art supplies and free both space to showcase their work.
The non-student artists were also pleased with the event, saying that attendees came with money in their pockets and were willing to invest in everything from small pieces to wall-sized works of art.
One artist, Stacy Forbes of East Greenwich, raved about attendees purchasing her art.
Forbes, a mother of five, said she only took up painting three and a half years ago and now she’s making enough money to make a full-time go of it.
“It’s called Shelee Art and was begun by artists in Australia,” Forbes said. “We use only products manufactured in Australia.”
The self-taught artist explained that she had seen YouTube videos of the art being created and thought, “I can do that,” and now she is.
While plans are still up the in the air for next year, Daly said everyone liked the event being held at Wilson Park, so it will probably be back there again next year.