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Artists bring art to the people

By Tyus Rafael
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A woman struggled with her shopping cart as she attempted to navigate through a stream of cars whose engines droned through the parking lot. A man stood by, leash in hand, as his dog inspected a palm tree. Children tagged along as their mothers looked longingly through shop windows. Diners bathed in the mid-afternoon October sun, taking in a faint breeze and a slice of pepperoni pizza.

        It was a far cry from the art galleries many of the Boca Park Fashion Village ArtWalk exhibitors have displayed their wares in.

        But when Las Vegas artist and ArtWalk show promoter Mark Vranesh settled in the city after years of showcasing his work throughout the Western United States, he created the atmosphere he was after.

        “I decided Las Vegas needed an art festival like the ones in Arizona,” Vranesh said. “It’s something nobody had really done in Las Vegas.”

        Exhibitors lined a temporarily empty section of the Boca Park Fashion Village parking lot, 750 S. Rampart Blvd., on Oct. 24-25. They showcased abstract bronze statues that glistened in the sun, vibrant, sweeping landscape prints, intricate metalwork, and soft impressionist pieces.

        But it was the people that made the Boca Park Fashion Village ArtWalk more than just an outdoor art gallery. The ArtWalk served a demographic different to the one that normally goes to a gallery. Some used walkers to help them get around. Others used strollers for those that couldn’t yet walk.

        Often with a dog leash in one hand, or a child in the other, patrons struck up conversations with artists like Nathan Van Arsdale. Van Arsdale displayed his bright, natural landscapes at the festival. He is a career artist in multiple respects, having worked as a classical singer and having also taught voice lessons.

        When he was younger, Van Arsdale suffered from a form of plantar-fasciitis, an inflammation in the foot that causes a stabbing pain, which left him crippled.

        “When I was 21, I was told by doctors I wouldn’t walk again,” Van Arsdale said.

        He studied the likes of chiropractic therapy, holistic healing and reiki, all forms of alternative medicine, and applied this knowledge to himself. He attributes this, yoga, and an organic diet to his healing, and Van Arsdale spent the ArtWalk on his feet, running a raffle for one of his prints. Art played a crucial role in his recovery.

        “I feel more useful when I’m creating beauty and sharing beauty,” Van Arsdale said. “Becoming an artist grew out of my therapy.”

He found the setting to be much more personal than the galleries he has displayed in.

        “I like dealing with people on a one-to-one basis,” Van Arsdale said. “It’s good that we’re all coming together and sharing our passion.”

        In a traditional gallery setting, artists drop off their work to be displayed. They do not usually interact with their clients.

        “In a gallery, you just get a check at the end of the month,” said Bill Kutcher, who exhibited his vivid prints of the Southwestern United States. “You never see anybody.”

        Kutcher exhibits his works at art festivals for much of the year. When he’s not showing his work to others, he’s out capturing his landscapes during the golden hour, the times of day when the sun is near the horizon.

Between exhibiting and taking shots, art has become a full-time job for him. By showcasing his work at art festivals rather than galleries, he can avoid the commission galleries usually take. This has allowed him to sell to his preferred clientele.

        “I’d rather sell to average folks,” Kutcher said. “There’s more of a personal feedback with a customer. It’s nice having people acknowledge your work.”

        In a practical business sense, events like the Boca Park Fashion Village ArtWalk also provide a greater volume of potential customers than a gallery would see.

“You get a lot of people in a short amount of time, 2,000 people in two days,” ArtWalk exhibitor Glen Hart said. “In a gallery, you wouldn’t ever see that many people coming through.”

Hart exhibited his intricate welded metal pieces. Made from an assortment of nuts, bolts, gears and washers, his pieces serve both as art and as a showcase for what Hart, an engineer by trade, can do with metal.

But for the artists, the ArtWalk is more than just a place to sell their wares.

        Nearly two decades ago, Bob Wilfong was looking for a bronze penguin statue as a gift for his wife. When his search turned up dry, Wilfong decided he would make it himself. He found out he had a talent for it, and quit his job as a banker. He has spent the last 17 years sculpting abstract bronze figures for a living. His works have been displayed in several galleries, such as the Masters Gallery, 5370 Greenwood Plaza Blvd., Ste. 107, in Greenwood Village, Colorado.

        However, by displaying his sculptures at events like the ArtWalk, Wilfong hopes to educate the people around him about art.

“In a gallery, the client base is narrowed down to people who can afford and are looking for artwork,” Wilfong said. “Part of my job is to create an environment where people can see artwork.”

Patrons of all kinds freely approach artists and discuss their works and art in general. Artist Kathy Chetelat’s black terrier sat atop a folding camping chair, and greeted people to her art deco inspired installation. Chetelat tours art festivals full-time, and has found the people at the shows to be an integral part of her experience as an artist.

“These people can be a source of inspiration,” Chetelat said. “They’re happy when they come through places like this.”

Mark Vranesh will hold another art festival, the Sun City Summerlin ArtWalk, Nov. 7-8 from 10a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Mountain Shadows Community Center, 9107 Del Webb Blvd.

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