Cedar Valley Art and Heritage Fest combines pioneer feel with eclectic art
By Kelly Terpstra, firstname.lastname@example.org
Shannon Graham remembers hunting trips with his father as a teenager.
Graham would often be shooting – but not with a gun.
“He gave me his camera and I shot with that,” said Graham.
Graham and his wife, Colleen, own S&C Design Studios out of Plainfield. Their business specializes in abstract black and white print photography or “old school” darkroom art.
“The tones, contrast and detail is what I shoot,” Shannon Graham said.
The Grahams were one of many artists featured at the first ever Cedar Valley Art and Heritage Fest on Saturday in Charles City.
The festival was a mash-up of the Floyd County Historical Museum’s Pioneer Day and Charles City’s annual Artafest celebration. Typically the two events are held separately on the same day, but were combined for the first time this year.
Artafest has been a yearly art show that dates back to the 1970s and has been held for 46 years in Charles City. Many vendors and artists set up their galleries behind the museum at Andres Memorial Park.
Graham – who produces silver gelatin prints in a darkroom after taking pictures with his antique, analog cameras – said this is the second art show in Charles City he has attended. He started his photography business 22 years ago and the bulk of his work involves commercial photography.
The couple travels to bigger art shows around the Midwest in Chicago, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Madison and Des Moines, but they love the smaller shows and what Charles City brings to the table.
“It’s a community. It’s a support system. It’s a family,” said Graham.
He said the cameras he uses for his prints are all between 75 and 150 years old. He said digital cameras nowadays produce an image electronically. His analog cameras require a chemical process to create a photo. This can lead to experimentation or the twisting of an image in the darkroom to produce a desired effect.
“It’s the process. It’s all about the chemistry,” said Shannon. “Electrons can’t do what molecules can do and that’s a big, big difference.”
While Shannon and his wife have been perfecting their striking visual art on a full-time basis for more than two decades, several at the art festival were relatively new to honing their craftsmanship.
Floyd’s Amy Chatfield owns Silkebana – an amalgamation of the words silk and ikebana. Ikebana means making flowers come alive. Silk is often used for artificial flowers.
“I love the Japanese culture,” she said.
Chatfield combines the two to set into motion works that are mixed medium. Chatwood uses her acrylic paintings, along with papercraft and silk arrangements to form an interesting contrast of texture and tones.
One of her favorite works is that of a French barista. The blossoms in the barista’s hair are actually coffee beans.
Chatwood said silk hair clips were a good seller on the bright and sunny summer day.
Chatwood recently attended Nordic Fest in Decorah and is planning on showing off her artwork in Osage in September at Autumn Artistry.
“My dream is to be an artist,” she said.
Kurt Wedeking owns Kurt’s Custom Works in Charles City and, like Chatfield, this is the second time he’s shown his work in Charles City.
In addition to his brightly colored canvas paintings, Wedeking had on display his custom woodworking projects. One such piece was a rocking horse unicorn. He said the side endeavor “keeps him out of trouble” and is a hobby outside of his full-time job at Cambrex.
“I started out with spray paint art,” he said.
Wedeking said artists from Cedar Falls and Fort Dodge were at the show, and he wouldn’t mind if it were held more frequently.
“Honestly, I think it would be better if we had it a couple of times a year for people that couldn’t make it,” he said.
Museum activities included butter making, sewing and weaving, heirloom vegetables with free samples, rope making, candle making, a cider press with free samples, an old-fashioned soda jerk with free root beer samples and free rock candy, homemade ice cream samples and more.
Loran and Mary Recker took a step back in time to the Old West with their chuckwagon, which was a realistic interpretation of what a cowboy campsite would look like in the 1800s.
The husband and wife tandem served up baking-powder biscuits made over cast iron and coals. Folks could also take a swig of cowboy coffee to get the grit out of their mouth after a long day’s ride across the prairie.
Loran and Mary are members of the American Chuckwagon Association and said they have cooked complete, four-course meals down in Lebanon, Missouri. That event raised money for Wounded Warriors at the Wagon for Warriors non-profit annual event held Memorial Day Weekend in the “Show Me State.”
The 19th Amendment Society provided transportation back and forth to the Carrie Lane Chapman Catt Girlhood Home and Interpretive Center open house being held the same day.
Musical acts that performed at the festival were Isaac Jensen and Hayden Pleggenkuhl, Polka Post, Sonny Diesburg, Charles City Community Chamber Orchestra, the Nolt Family and Harrison Sheckler.
Artists that attended and displayed their wares included, Janiece Bergland, Anne Boerschel, Amy Chatfield, Sheila Devereaux, Kathi Fehr, Maddie Fletcher, Amanda Gebel, Shannon and Colleen Graham, Jane Haahr, Ron Hahlen, Bill Haywood, Dennis Helmers, Dan and Mickey Johnson, Yoshiko Johnson, James Kerns, Ernie and Claudia Koch, Ann Bishop McGregor, Dennis Petersen, Doug Reynolds, Megan Roethler, Tyler Sandstrom, Stephen Schiller, Schmidt, Bob Schneider, Ken Schwickerath, Angela Shepard, Darlene Shultz, Meagan Steinberg, Katie Syhlman, Kurt Wedeking and Outreach Africa.
Prizes awarded to exhibiting artists by art juror Corwin Dunlap were:
– First place ($100), James Kearns.
– Second place ($75), Ann Bishop McGregor.
– Third place ($50), Janiece Bergland.
– Jean Semelhack Honorary Award ($50), Dennis Petersen.
– Honorable Mention $20, Ashley Koebrick Schmidt, Anne Boerschel, Shannon and Colleen Graham, Amanda Gebel, Ken Schwickerath and Dennis Helmers.