7th annual ArtWorks Festival is ‘a story of momentum’

August 19, 2018

Join 67 exhibitors in Austin next weekend at the seventh annual ArtWorks Festival Aug. 25-26.

With a 20 percent increase in artists from last year, the two-day event will have all sorts of art on display, including ceramics, glass, jewelry, painting, photography, sculpture, printmaking and basket weaving.

Austin Area Arts executive director Laura Helle said she thinks the festival has only continued to get better over the years.

“We really saw some momentum this year in terms of going into the seventh year, we have good word of mouth and past artists that would recommend the festival,” Helle said. “It’s a story of momentum, it takes a long time to build it, but then people more or less do the marketing for you.”

While 47 of this year’s artists are native to Minnesota, the rest will be making the trip from Iowa, Wisconsin, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, Tennessee and Florida.

Helle said that growth not only is a testament to the ArtWorks festival itself, but the increased art presence in Austin as a whole as part of Vision 2020.

“I think Austin has always had a strong art scene, but in the last five years or so, we’ve seen a little gasoline on the fire,” she said. “Art is something that adds to the quality of life, which is an important point in our community.”

An added foundation

In addition to the success of the highest number of exhibitors, Austin Area Arts received a $196,000 operating grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board.

Helle said each grant winner received a minimum of $15,000, and any additional funds were granted on merit.

“To have that amount be so much more than the minimum was pretty amazing,” Helle said. “Funding like that that we can really plan on for four years really adds a solid foundation for us. Now, we’ll be able to put our energy into more community responsiveness, what they need and what they’re asking for.”

Helle said the grant money, which will be distributed over four years, will help them serve both current and new audiences in Austin, through programming like the ArtWorks Festival.

“I would say that this is a community artworks festival, not one where fancy people view art that is worth millions of dollars that no one understands,” she said. “We are very inclusive, and we have a lot of elements that try to make people feel welcome.”