Art in the Park, created by Stuart Wolf, has helped northern Arizona’s artists collaborate with the Flagstaff community for over two decades. The event occurs twice a year over July 4 and Labor Day weekends, welcoming artists across the Southwest. Wolf coordinated the last 20 years, but it is now run by Ryanne Sebern, who continues the tradition of connecting the community and artists.
Taking place in Wheeler Park from Sept. 4-6, the event proceeded normally as the outdoor setting minimized health and safety concerns. In addition, the location allowed artists and community members to have personal interactions in one of Flagstaff’s most popular parks.
Joni Pevarnik, who helps coordinate with Sebern, said she believes the Flagstaff community helped the event grow over the previous two decades.
“Wonderful people come from the community, like family, because they are very friendly and supportive of the artists,” Pevarnik said.
Some featured artisans include jewelers, pottery workers, metal workers, painters and photographers. Many of them have traveled around the Southwest to different art shows, including Flagstaff’s event.
NAU alumnus Troy Anderson dedicated over 20 years of his life to woodworking and currently runs Spoonwright, a business centered around the craft. He described this year’s Art in the Park festival as special, mainly because exhibitions are coming back in full force after nothing last year.
“Events are opening up again right now,” Anderson said. “Vendors work very hard, [and] art events such as this are very important.”
Art in the Park gave artists a chance to display work they created throughout the year. Those such as Anderson, and many other vendors at the festival, have devoted their lives to the craft. Most of them run personal businesses as full-time jobs and without shows they struggle to promote their work and create personal connections with other artists and community members.
Rachel Kausch, a vendor from Tucson brand Juju and Moxie Co., said meeting and interacting with attendees allows artists to see that the public wants to support small businesses and buy locally.
“I love going because interacting with people who give feedback allows me to improve my product,” Kausch said.
Kausch, Anderson and other artists said an exciting energy stemmed from being back and seeing that other vendors have new work. Kasuch explained that viewing different creations and newfound products lets her know artists never stopped working during last year’s pandemic restrictions.
The park was full of tents, vendors and live music from local musicians to keep the event moving throughout the weekend.
Lois Lang, a first-time attendee, heard about the event through an online advertisement and said it appealed to her love of art. She added that the Flagstaff community is friendly and described some of the art as unique.
“I love to see how creative people are,” Lang said.
Jon Sayler, who recently relocated to Flagstaff, wanted to connect with the city and decided to attend the show for the first time.
“Flagstaff is a great area for an art show because of its great weather, downtown and good community,” Sayler said.
Based on his experience with art shows in the valley, Sayler said the event wasn’t as busy as he thought it would be.
Art in the Park also included the National Art Honor Society at the Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy. Katie Runnels, an academic interventionist for the academy, said the event was a perfect opportunity to promote the creativity and importance of art.
“Art is a freedom of expression,” Runnels said. “The school promotes that students should have the ability to express their creativity.”
Similarly, some of the artists spoke about how their work is a way to showcase their creativity and craftsmanship.
Guy Schmickle, a photographer from Sedona, has worked for over a decade in the arts and makes a living off the work he sells. Schmickle said he learned of similar events through other vendors who share a passion for creative art.
“Better shows through the year are important to my income,” Schmickle said.
Schmickle and other artists said events give them community feedback and face-to-face interactions that leave a better impression because of the personal touch that comes with in-person communication.
Throughout the event, the community continued to support the artists, with many vendors gaining the exposure and human connection missed over the year. Flagstaff’s Art in the Park gave attendees and artisans alike a memorable Labor Day weekend, while providing community engagement within the creativity of local artists around the Southwest.