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Artists looks to empower at 60th annual Art Fair on the Square

July 15, 2018

In a collection of Seven Warrior Women with faces representing all seven continents, Asia is imagined as an Indian woman decorated in turquoise and red traditional garb with a sword in hand that’s sprinkled with images of more women.

The woman’s eyes pierce through the collage, greeting onlookers with an intensity that is hard to miss. The empowering mixed-media collages have secured artist Kristi Abbot her first tent at Art Fair on the Square after four years of applying.

The 60th annual Art Fair on the Square, which continues Sunday, features nearly 500 artists exhibiting their work on Capitol Square.

“I love the different cultures. I love travel. I love drawing inspiration form history,” said Abbot, who left her ob in Australia five years ago and moved to Minnesota to pursue a full-time artistic career.

Abbot’s art playfully combines texture and patterns to offer striking images of “warrior” women costumed according to their respective cultures.

Across Capitol Square, photographer Clifton Henri offers images aimed at empowering everyone who sees them, he said. Henri’s photographs capture the simple things in life while sending strong messages about the importance of representation.

With subjects from Chicago, New Orleans and Cuba, each photograph is a piece of his own personal journey, Henri said.

“The focus of the work is to capture black and brown faces as the subject of fine art,” said Henri. The Chicago native has showcased his work on at the fair for six years with a goal of telling his own story to uplift the narratives of others.

“I am the old man in the barbershop. I am the little girl holding the book,” he said about his photography.

The annual fair delivers art ranging from large animal sculptures turned patio furniture, to underwater photography of coral reefs.

Food carts and lemonade stands on intersecting streets offer refreshments while three entertainment stages at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, State and North Hamilton Streets, showcase a variety of dance performances and live bands.

Each artist on the square is selected by a jury of professional artists. The jury panel changes each year to ensure an “unbiased but knowledgeable” selection based on merit, said Erika Monroe-Kane, spokeswoman for the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, which sponsors the fair.

Since the fair can only except about a third of the artists who apply to be on the square, artists are also encouraged to apply as an emerging artist. Twelve emerging artists were chosen to have tents on the 100 block of State Street.

Art Fair on the Square raises funds to support MMOCA exhibitions and educational programming.

“The resources from the fair go right back into the community,” Monroe-Kane said, adding that MMOCA serves nearly 25,000 children a year with its programming.

Each year the art fair draws nearly 200,000 people over the course of the weekend, she said.

“We hope people will build a visit to Art Fair on the Square into their weekend, not just because they will have a wonderful time, but also because by coming down they help keep museum admission free year-round,” Monroe-Kane said.

“We hope people will build a visit to Art Fair on the Square into their weekend, not just because they will have a wonderful time, but also because by coming down they help keep museum admission free year-round.” Erika Monroe-Kane, spokeswoman,Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

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