What is art? For some, it signifies an expensive piece of work hanging in a gallery. For Margaret Dietly, that definition can expand to include things like sneaker art and handmade soap.
That’s why from noon to 4:30 p.m. Sunday in Miller Park, Art in the Park will have artisans presenting unconventional wares along with more expected pieces such as photography and ceramics, said Dietly, the event’s new organizer. The event, organized by VACI Partners, a group that raises money to give scholarships to students in the School of Art, will have two shows: one on Sunday and the second on Aug. 7. The two shows will feature 82 artists in total, including new vendors selling things like ukulele cases, upcycled books and homemade cotton candy.
Dietly said because those crafters have skill and talent in making something unique, their work can be viewed as art.
“I think people want to have more than just painting and ceramics, not that those aren’t great,” Dietly said. “[People are] looking for a variety and some unusual things … I just hope I have expanded the genre [in the event]. I want to have as many different expressions of art that I can.”
She said taking on the event for the first time took a lot of work, as she sent out more than 300 letters to prospective artists, but the preparation was worth it.
“It’s something I believe in,” Dietly said. “It’s their livelihood. [For] some, it’s a business, some it’s a hobby. And then there are art students also, who are here at Chautauqua, who sell and display their work as well. I think it’s a wonderful way to showcase any kind of art.”
Marilyn Richey, who will be at the second show in August, creates jewelry with antique Victorian buttons as the centerpieces. She said they are “little pieces of history,” and that sets her work apart from others’ material, because people appreciate the craftsmanship and tradition embedded in her work.
Similarly, Jonathan Lerner, who makes sneaker art, said his work is one-of-a-kind and not something mass-produced solely for the purpose of making money. He uses materials such as Sharpie markers, glitter and paint to create images on shoes, and each shoe is different from the other.
Besides being unique, Lerner also said sneaker art is more approachable for everyday people to appreciate.
“Gallery art is a little bit inaccessible to a lot of people, whereas sneakers are very mainstream in fashion,” Lerner said. “I think it’s a way of bringing art and design into a more popular medium and that’s accessible. It would cost thousands of dollars to buy an original painting, but to buy a pair of sneakers that has original art on it is more affordable.”
Dietly said she wants people to appreciate the different types of art featured in the event and discover new things.
“I’m hoping this art show is accessible to everyone,” Dietly said. “I hope people go away saying, ‘Wow, I saw something I didn’t see before, wasn’t that clever?’ and, ‘What a great idea, how original’ — and then buy it.”