Westminster blooms with Art in the Park

Festival offers array of works, plus music, food and activities

June 06, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The quiet gardens of Westminster City Hall came alive yesterday with music, poetry, painting and dance.

Art in the Park, a daylong festival in the Carroll County seat, drew more than 1,000 people browsing among exhibits by 52 artists.

"I just love the whole setting," said Susie Bailey of Vienna, Va. "I came in while a dulcimer played. Then, two little boys acted out a scene from `Alice in Wonderland.' The atmosphere is just so comfortable."

The large turnout showed a true interest in art, said Suzanne Mancha, a Manchester watercolorist who won the decades-old show's first prize.

"People come here for art, not for refrigerator magnets," Mancha said.

For Monique Montague, a sculptor from Baltimore exhibiting for the first time in Westminster, the show was "small-town and charming with just enough people."

Many artists acknowledged that business was a little slow but agreed sales were not the main theme of the day.

"This is not just a show for buying art, but also for looking at art," said Sandy Oxx, director of the Carroll County Arts Council.

When people tired of looking, they could stop for funnel cake, fresh lemonade or pit beef. Or, they could spread blankets across the lawn and stay for an afternoon of bluegrass, Celtic airs, folk songs and Irish step dancing.

Lois Alban came from Baltimore to watch her 6-year-old granddaughter, Morgan Alban, tap across stage. Morgan stayed after her dancing debut for story time and a little artwork of her own.

"There was lots for children to do," said Lois Alban. "They could paint flowerpots in their own design, listen to a story and get a face painting. And, it was all for free. You can't beat it."

"You just wanted to linger," said Karen Alban, Morgan's mother.

Veteran artists shared space in the park with newcomers, like Brandon Bacon of Westminster.

"This is the first time I have exhibited anything," said Bacon, who calls himself a nontraditionalist. "I just wanted to see what happened."

Bacon spent the day interpreting his brightly colored artwork for visitors, who, he said, "are more used to country scenes."

Laurie Basham of New Market hung her pastels on a fence and then busied herself with her latest passion: doll-making. As she painted faces on fabric, she drew many onlookers.

"The dolls are gorgeous, bright and kind of Renaissance," said Wesley Michael, 13.

If Wesley could invest in art, she said she might consider a doll, but she really favored the bright green stained-glass dragon on display nearby.

Amy Tanner's pen-and-ink postcards of Westminster street scenes proved popular.

"I live on Main Street and get a lot of my inspiration there," Tanner said. "People are really interested in the local scenes."

Illustrator Jerry L. Gadd hung his Westminster scenes among his paintings of the Inner Harbor. His prints of the Pride of Baltimore II sailing the Chesapeake Bay were as popular as those of snow-covered Carroll County Farm Museum.

"So much to paint and so little time," said Gadd, who lives in South Baltimore but said, his "heart is in Carroll County."

Judging from the sidewalks, many budding artists were in attendance. Eight dozen thick, colored chalk sticks worn down to nubs and multicolored concrete attested to the popularity of sidewalk-chalking.

One 4-year-old boy drew a purple prehistoric creature with a long trunk on the sidewalk.

"I think it's a woolly mammoth," said Steve Nelson of his son's drawing.

Young Zachary corrected his father: "It's a silly mammoth."

The Nelsons, of Westminster, had come to the festival with their new neighbors.

"We thought this was a perfect day to introduce new folks to the local area festivities," Nelson said.

Pub Date: 6/06/99

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