Ponce Festival ‘Springs’ Into Local Art

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Saturday was a beautiful day for the Spring Festival on Ponce, the kind of day that made everybody want to indulge in the locally-made ice cream sandwiches (with flavors like espresso and bourbon) and popsicles. With more than 150 artists gathered in Olmsted Linear Park, the heat was a good motivator as it drove people to seek coolness in the shadows of the artists’ tents. “Art,” as a very broad term, encompassed a nearly overwhelming number of mediums — three-dimensional paintings, wire-mesh sculptures, wind chimes with plants growing inside of them, locally made grills and more. I quickly lost myself, however, in the main event — the long lines of white tents and the artists inside.

There was so much to do that I found myself completely occupied for hours upon hours. A children’s playground constantly emitted laughter, lines of food trucks and local treats like kettle corn (in exciting flavors like “Rainbow Magic”) drew an ever-constant stream of lines and children and adults alike explored stalls all day with sticky fingers and face-paint all over their bodies. In the background of all this were local Georgian country bands and the occasional violist by the side of the park.

Perhaps one of the most special things about going to art festivals like these is appreciating not only the work, but the artist and method behind them. Despite the widespread talent of the variety of artists, I found that after asking, “So, how is this done?,” no two answers were exactly alike. For some, it was effortless. Inga and Evija, designer of handmade recycled wallets and purses, said that their cloth came from a wide variety of sources and were put together randomly to “keep the energy and uniqueness.” When I asked Nelms Creekmur, a local blacksmith, what inspired him to hammer words like “Walrus,” “Velvet” and “Snow Lion,” on his brass, copper and steel cuffs, he sheepishly shrugged. “My head gets a little hot and stuffy up there sometimes. Honestly, who knows.”

On the other hand, some artists emphasized the effort that went into the work. Ryan Holis, a professional fine art landscape and travel photographer, said that the main factor behind his work was “Research, research, research. I have to keep in mind the time of day, the angle of light, the season, the people — it’s all research just to get one good shot.”

When I asked Michael Terra, designer of unique ceramic three-dimensional poetry, what his inspiration was, his first answer was simply, “You.” He then went on to explain, “I basically get my inspiration from listening and paying attention in the little bits that are in relationships we see all the time. The mother and daughter, the parent and daughter, the lovers, the siblings. And in the course of listening … I get to hear this little nugget of truth. True things that all mothers and daughters talk about, true things that all lovers need to talk about, true things that all parents tell their children. And if I can get to that little nugget of truth, then I can write a story about that, and if I’m really good, if I get rid of all my ego in writing that story, what’s left is something that when you read it, it reminds you of something you already know.”

The most gratifying experience of all this, though, was not in the wares themselves — the delicious caramel kettle corn, giant turkey leg, copper ring or steel cuff I bought — it was in the artists, the real people that were making these pieces of art. Though I, of course, absolutely loved looking at their work and talking to them about their methods, I also found it interesting to talk to them about anything. I thought it was amazing that several artists remembered the conversations we had since I attended last year’s Fall Festival on Ponce — whether it was saying I “had a familiar face,” or excitedly gushing to me about how her dog gained 12 pounds since the last time I saw her. Making a human connection with the professionals behind their work was truly a heartwarming moment.

Though a lot of things made me smile that day, I couldn’t grin wider than when the women at Copper Dancer Designs yelled after me, “We’ll be sure to give Ginger a good pat for you when we get home!”

— By Emily Li 

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