By Ron Giofu
Organizers and vendors at Art by the River reported good crowds and positive feedback during last weekend’s event… when it was dry, that is.
Thunderstorms cut both days of the 50th annual event short but when it was sunny and hot during earlier portions of Saturday and Sunday, things still went well. The annual event is presented by the Fort Malden Guild of Arts and Crafts, the body that runs the Gibson Gallery.
Denise Busko works on a painting last Saturday during Art by the River. She was one of the 150 artists and artisans on the grounds of Fort Malden for the 50th annual event.
“Yesterday was one of our busiest days that I can remember,” said Dave Cozens, president of the board of directors. “Fortunately the storm came late enough (Saturday) that people had already been here.”
Saturday afternoon’s storm saw damage to about five tents but Cozens noted that it was minor and there were no injuries that he was aware of. The decision to close early came around 3 p.m.
“It could have been a lot worse,” said Cozens.
Sunday’s round of storms once again caused the event to shut down early, as the call was made to close around 2 p.m. The gallery reported via the Art by the River page on Facebook (www.facebook.com/artbytheriveramherstburg) they were on track for a record turnout before the thunderstorms rolled in.
Overall, there were about 150 vendors that took over the grounds at Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada. Being the 50th anniversary of Art by the River, the gallery added a raffle tent with about 80 pieces of art being donated. Cozens said that was popular.
“The raffle tent has been packed,” he said.
Vendors came from all around southern Ontario, he said, something publicity director and board member Bonnie Deslippe confirmed. She said many are from around London and Toronto with some being north of Toronto. One vendor comes from as far as Manitoba every year.
Traya and Melah Mulder
create their own pieces of art at the “Little Artists’ Workshop” during Art by the River.
“The feedback I get from exhibitors is that they love the venue and they love how organized the show is,” said Deslippe. “We hear it all the time – ours is one of the better run festivals.”
While the 50th anniversary is important to the Gibson Gallery, Deslippe said the artists are the most important factor to Art by the River.
“For us, the focus is always on the art,” she said. “The focus is not about us, it is on the art and making sure everyone enjoys themselves, both the public and exhibitors.”
Deslippe pointed out the volunteers have been a vital part of the show for each of the 50 years.
“The event can’t go off without our dedicated volunteers,” she stated.
When storms hit, Deslippe added the volunteers worked hard to make sure everyone was safe and merchandise was cared for properly.
Crowds stream through Fort Malden National Historic Site during Art by the River. The event is the Gibson Gallery’s largest fundraiser of the year.
For Denise Busko, this year’s Art by the River was her first and she is trying to branch out into larger, outdoor shows to get more exposure to her paintings.
“This is what I want to do, sell my art,” she said. “I’m going to keep doing shows like this. It’s been a good experience. I’ve been getting a lot of feedback.”
Busko said she has done solo exhibitions and smaller shows but liked Art by the River.
“I think this has been the best yet just because of how many people come here,” she said.
Local author John Schlarbaum was along the shores of the Detroit River selling his books and reported Saturday afternoon things were going well.
“For me, I’ve sold a lot of books,” said Schlarbaum. “I am very happy.”
Schlarbaum called it “a nice local, cultural event” that allows him to connect with his readers.
“The Greek Chef” Oreste Papageorgiou and his delicacies were part of the show for about the sixth time. He said the people are very friendly and has never had any issues with the organizers of the show.
“A lot of the same people come here and say ‘we love you, don’t stop coming,” said Papageorgiou.
Papageorgiou said they loved the fact they were helping the Gibson Gallery celebrate the 50th annual show.
“We love to celebrate with them. That’s quite a milestone,” he said. “It seems to be getting better all the time.”
Dan Greenwood and his Erie Treasures Chainsaw Art came in from Wheatley for the second straight year and he called it a nice venue he enjoys coming to. He said he is learning what pieces to bring to which shows and has learned that the Amherstburg show has resulted in a lot of bird creations being sold.
“Last year, we sold everything that looked like an owl,” he said.
Greenwood said coming to Art by the River “has worked out very well” and “we love it here. We’ll come back again next year.” He added he can remember coming to Art by the River when he was 11 or 12-years-old.
Kaitlynn Lessard and Sallma Majthoab create a large piece of art as part of a competition for students during Art by the River.
Lanre Peacock was at Art by the River for the first time. Having just moved from Toronto to Windsor, he wanted to try a local show as he generates a good portion of his income through art sales.
“I love what I do,” he said.
Much of Peacock’s work is sold online but he wants to get to various art shows in the region as well and tried Art by the River. He said the exposure and feedback was strong.
“That goes a long way when you are hearing people talk about what you are doing,” said Peacock.
The Gibson Gallery is located at 140 Richmond St. and their phone number is 519-736-2826. Their website is www.gibsonartgallery.com, their Facebook page can be found at www.facebook.com/GibsonGallery and their Twitter account is @ARTamherstburg.