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Lora Walker discusses her art work with Becky Sturtz during Arts in the Park.

The first Arts in the Park festival in Vinton filled Celebration Park with more than two dozen tents featuring the work of 33 area artists, including several who were displaying their work for the first time.

A sign in the welcome booth indicated that one of the purposes of the festival and the Vinton Guild of Fine Arts that organized it is to help “emerging artists.”

Some of those emerging artists shared their thoughts after seeing strangers come to see and evaluate their work for the very first time in their lives.

One of those is Vinton native Mya Brown. Guild member Paul Roster saw some of her sketches and invited her to bring them to the festival.

Brown began drawing while she was in high school and had heard some compliments on her work from friends and family members.

But she still had doubts about her work, her ability, her drawings.

She said she was nervous before her first event.

“I wasn't sure what people were going to think especially compared to the other amazing artists there,” she said.

That nervousness disappeared on Saturday, when people she never met told her how impressive her work is.

“It sinks in when you hear good things from complete strangers, and not just friends and family,” said Brown, adding that often when she heard compliments from people she knew she would think, “They are supposed to say that.”

On Saturday, however, festival attendees whom Brown had never met told her she had “really great work” that “shows lots of emotion.”

And, they told her to keep at it.

“Some said they looked forward to seeing what I come up with next,” she recalls. “Hearing what people had to say even though I only sold one was the best part of the whole event.”

Saying that artists are their own worst critics, Brown said of her work: “Nothing seems done or good enough – something was always missing.”

The response from art lovers has inspired Brown to continue her work, and try to learn new things about art.

“I draw because I enjoy it,” she says. “At the end of the day that's all that matters. People like all different styles of art. I came to understand that everyone sees things differently; I draw what I see and think and feel, as does everyone else. I'm going to try painting and oil paints and all I can, and am looking into going to art school.”

While there were a few new artists in their teens or twenties displaying their work for the first time, some of the emerging artists are grandparents or retirees who discovered their talent later in life.

Marvin Drenter farmed his whole life, and spent years as a stock car racer. In 1964, he met famous driver A.J. Foyt in Indianapolis. Foyt had watched Drenter and other racers at a smaller track near the famous race site, and wanted to know how Drenter managed turns without using his brakes.

Drenter, another of the first-time art demonstrators, has drawn and painted some of the cars he used to drive, as well as the farms where he used to live. His big project now is making models of the buildings on the first farm that he bought. He brought the barn he is building to the festival, and told several attendees about how he is making it.

The festival, Drenter said Saturday, was one of the greatest days he ever had. Although he had given many prints to friends, the festival was his first time to display his work in public and he looks forward to the opportunity to do it again.

Grandmother Lora Walker of rural Vinton saw many of her children and grandchildren at the festival, along with many strangers who stopped to admire her work.

Like other first-time artists, she too was anxious.

“This was my first exhibition with my art pieces,” says Walker, who has experimented with a variety of art forms. “It was a hard decision for me, but with a lot of support from my family I decided to give it try. I feel it was a very good day. I was very nervous at first but I like talking with people so it did get easier.”

Walker remembers two specific compliments that inspired her.

“A couple of ladies from the guild told me that I shouldn't consider myself an emerging artist; they said I am already an artist,” she said.

Others told her that she had some “very unusual and interesting things.”

“Which to me, translates that I have something a little different from the norm and it was noticed” she said.

Yet, adds Walker, seeing her family at the event was her favorite part.

“The best feeling of the whole day was when so many of my family came and showed their support of me. I can't thank them enough. It was a great day,” she said.

While Saturday's event was not Ivy Hinrichs' first show, she said it has been one of her favorite events as an art exhibitor.

"We truly enjoyed the experience of the whole day. Between meeting fellow artists, talking with visitors and the beautiful day we ended up having, we were really pleased with the day. I have done a couple of shows in the past (both in Cedar Rapids) but felt like this was one of the more successful ones to show and sell my art. I enjoyed getting feedback from visitors, enjoyed seeing smiles on their faces when they saw my whimsical creations and was I was happy to see some of my work go home with people to enjoy. The event was well-organized with friendly and helpful volunteers making the day easy and fun. I would definitely do this event again as we had such a great time," Henrichs said.

‘I wondered if I belonged…’

Like the other first-time artists displaying their work, Amanda Dedrick, 16, was nervous before the event, but very happy at the reaction to her work that she witnessed.

“I was nervous about sharing my work with everyone. I wondered if I even belonged there with all of those wonderful artists, said Dedrick. “Also, I was nervous about communicating with people I had never met before.”

Quickly, however, Dedrick, who has won awards at the Wamac Art Fair as an art student at Vinton-Shellsburg High School, began to hear great things about her work.

“The art festival was a really great event. Those that stopped by my booth had a lot of nice things to say,” she said. “Many told me that it is great to see young artists. Also, many were amazed that I had only been painting for two years. Some of the most touching comments I received were the ones where observers talked about how my work reminded them of something in their life or a place they had been. I think most artists enjoy it when their creation relates to their audience. All in all, the festival was a great experience for me and I would do it again.”

Another benefit, said Dedrick, is that the festival offered new artists a group of willing teachers.

“There were so many talented people there that I can learn from,” she said.

‘We will do this again’

Paul Roster, one of the Guild members who helped organize the event, said the group is already discussing future art festivals.

“I heard from many people that this event is just what Vinton needs and that we have a beautiful community and it is a perfect setting for a large scale art festival. We will do this again and we hope to make it bigger and better,” said Roster, who had several paintings on display.

“The festival was a lot of fun and we had a lot of great talent exhibiting their artwork,” Roster continued. “The music was fantastic and we need to thank Todd Frank for lining up all of the musicians.”

While there is no way of knowing how many people attended the event, Roster said some people offered estimates of 700 to 800 people.

“We really have no way of knowing for sure. We had 200 maps of the festival to hand out to folks as they were coming in but those ran out right away in the morning after we opened to the public. There was a steady flow of people walking through the festival the entire day,” he said.

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