Art is traditionally spotlighted in galleries, but this weekend, you’ll find artwork illuminated by the sunlight in a green and serene space without any walls.
From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 7, Friends of Chautauqua Visual Arts will host its second Art in the Park event of the season at Miller Park. Proceeds from the event benefit artists in residence at the CVA School of Art.
“This is one of the many different events that CVA puts on every year to support the opportunity for resident artists to come to Chautauqua, live here and make great art and contacts,” said Sarah Dyer Dana, event-planning committee member and board member of the Friends of CVA, an organization that supports the arts at Chautauqua.
Art in the Park is an open art fair, where vendors from across different artistic mediums gather to showcase their art in a community setting and environment. The vendors each pay an entry fee, which benefits residency scholarships. Because the event takes place on a Sunday, individuals and friends from surrounding communities can attend the event for free.
A mix of both returning and new artists will be featured in this weekend’s event, including community creatives, art residents and artists from the surrounding region. Lydia Strohl, vice president of the Friends of CVA, said that there is a record number of 14 resident artists participating.
“Art in the Park is a way for resident artists to let the public know what they are thinking about, doing, and working on,” said Betsy Vance, Friends of CVA president.
There will be a variety of artwork and items available for sale, such as ceramics, paintings, prints, homemade soaps, organic cosmetics, embellished handbags and fine jewelry.
Returning artist Jerome Chesley will display his watercolor paintings, and artist Barbara Sam will spotlight her journals made out of vintage books. Erie-based artist and a director of the Friends of CVA, Belinda Rogers, will showcase her vibrant mixed-media paintings. Pittsburgh-based artist Eve Palguta Thomas will bring her funky and eclectic series of unconventionally shaped ceramic vases and sculptures, which she refers to as “vessels.”
Thomas is the owner and founder of Two Faced Ceramics, a functional art and ceramics company, which she started in February 2022. Growing up, she said that she was always interested in art, specifically painting and sculpting, but wasn’t sure how those two passions would ever translate into a living wage.
In her junior year of college, while pursuing an undergraduate degree in humanities, she came up with the plan to start a ceramics company.
“I always had this idea of starting something that could be a sustainable business,” she said. “Ceramics is something that I love, and it’s something that everyone can use in their homes. Ceramics is more accessible than other mediums, and just seemed like something that could function well as a business.”
After receiving her undergraduate degree from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Thomas attended The New York Academy of Art, where she received a master’s in painting with a concentration in sculpture. Since graduating with her master’s in 2017, Thomas has worked in many different roles and spaces, from studio art to luxury interior design, to becoming a university professor and now a small business owner.
Out of all her endeavors, she said that her current work with ceramics ultimately feels like one of the most authentic representations and reflections of herself.
The series of amorphous and non-traditional shapes have fun, patterned glaze-coated finishings that Thomas calls their “personalities.” She said she sees each of her pieces as having their own unique personas, reflecting the different mental health personalities that exist. This series has become a stylistic signature of her ceramic pieces, as in her work, she often draws creative inspiration from her personal journey with mental health.
“I’ve dealt with my own mental health issues and have explored what different personalities are like,” she said. “I wanted to invite my personal experiences into how I started Two Faced … to show how one thing can simultaneously have multiple different facets and personalities, and (illustrate how) the way in which we each outwardly present ourselves might give people different impressions and ideas of who we are.”
Overall, Thomas said that she likes the idea of playfully opening up the catalog of vases to include more than just cylindrical shapes and neutral tones. Differently shaped and colored vases often cause the flowers to be arranged and presented differently, as well.
“Clay is so much fun to work with and to manipulate,” she said. “When it came to vases, I kept asking myself, ‘Why do we still only limit ourselves to just a cylinder? … How can I take something that’s had this historic tradition and turn it into something that’s fresh, new, and innovative?’ ”
Thomas uses her own original molds and slip-casting system to create multiples of each form. She has created her own identifiable, original forms inspired by existing structures and shapes such as archways, the moon, and the letters X and O.
“I like to think of each of the pieces as mini-sculptures that can adorn one’s home and bring joy to anybody and their daily lives,” she said.
Thomas is looking forward to finding new homes for her vessels this weekend. Rogers is also excited.
“Art in the Park is such a compact event with so many different mediums and talents. I always really enjoy it,” Rogers said.
She has been involved with CVA for the past five years and has been a vendor at the event for the past three years. She is a self-taught artist, who started painting with watercolors as a pastime. What started out as a hobby has slowly transitioned into a regular artistic practice.
She has become known for her abstract, floral and landscape mixed-media paintings, which often draw inspiration from her surroundings and the seasons.
“I find myself inspired by skiers in the winter, and inspired by the sailboats and bright blue skies at Chautauqua during the summer,” she said.
Rogers will offer Chautauquans a gamut of different paintings to choose from, including a small selection of paintings from her Chautauqua collection, where she paints portraits of landmarks such as the Miller Bell Tower and the Athenaeum Hotel. She will also bring pieces from her Ruth Bader Ginsburg series, in which she paints images of the former Supreme Court justice’s different famous neck collars, which she often wore to reflect her different stances on issues.
“I am excited to see all the students work,” Rogers said. “CVA is truly such a wonderful community to be a part of; it’s all about supporting the students.”
Thomas’, Rogers’, and other vendors’ booths will all be in Miller Park this weekend. The event will bring artists and the community together for a day filled with fun and creativity.
“Art in the Park is a great way for artists to connect with a general audience instead of art aficionados,” Dana said. “It’s all about going out into the community and seeing how they respond to the work.”