Festival makes successful return


The 47th Delaware Arts Festival was finally back. Five downtown city blocks became a giant art gallery.

The art festival is an adjudged show giving out ribbons and cash prices to winning artists. This year’s judges were David Groff and Robert Bender, both Columbus College of Art and Design alumni.

Best of Show for 2022 was awarded to Peter Rujuwa, a stone sculptor formerly from Zimbabwe, now a 23-year resident of Greenwood, Indiana. His studio, “Unique Rock Art,” is tribal art named after his tribe “Shona” in Zimbabwe. Around age 6, he and friends collected soapstone from surrounding mountains to carve toys. Now, 35 years later, he’s a self taught professional sculptor. African wildlife inspires Rujuwa, but he also creates abstract sculpture. His choice for sculpting is the hard serpentine stone. When asked how he decides what to carve, Rujuwa said, “Shape of the stone dictates, with the creator’s eye, what the sculpture will be.”

First place went to Melvin McGee from Green Bay, Wisconsin. McGee is a self-taught painter who describes his art as “Whimsical Surrealism.” He enjoys painting the world around him in colorful, cute ways that appeal to potential buyers. “You get a sense of what people like,” he said, “but, I have to like it, too.” An artist for 17 years, he said life inspires him.

“I’m just inspired to create and paint.” McGee said.

Second place was awarded to Markgraf Clayworks of Granville, Ohio. Husband, Tom, and wife, Karen, are Columbus College of Art and Design alumni who majored in sculpting and fine arts. Their handcrafted clay creations are wheel thrown, sculpted and hand glaze.

“We consider each piece one of a kind, an individual,” said Karen.

Their art work is also functional, everything from mugs, olive oil dispensers, flasks with skull stoppers and much more. “We don’t like to make the same thing over and over again,” said Tom. The couple also has a teaching studio in Newark, Ohio, helping all ages create with clay.

Third place recipient was Janet Alsup of Delaware. A painter with a BA from the University of New Mexico, Alsup’s favorite subjects are dogs.

“Dogs are very expressive, almost like painting a person,” she said.

Alsup said she started to dedicate herself to painting in 2012, taking portrait oil painting lessons at Columbus College of Art and Design. Her focus then were children’s portraits, but clients wanted her to paint their dogs, too. Alsup said she crossed over to dog portraits four years ago. Pet portraits are also found on ornaments and urns. She paints by commission from photographs and when time allows, paints a collection of America’s favorite dog breeds.

Alsup was a festival Meet the Artist participant in 2019, and daughter, Alison, received third place in the 2019 scholarship awards.

Honorable Mention was given to Chris Brewer of Canal Winchester, Ohio. Brewer earned a BFA from The Ohio State University and took classes from The Illustration Academy in Kansas City, Missouri.

Brewer’s paintings are created in oils, watercolors, pen and ink. His illustration themes include fantasy, sci-fi and icons. Wonder Woman, Thor and Superman are only three of the iconic characters. Brewer’s creativity is also seen in “The Search for Louie: A Pikmin Story,” a children’s book he wrote and illustrated. The process of creating is important to Brewer.

“If you don’t enjoy the process, you can’t paint or create long term,” he said.

Benefiting from the festival is an art scholarship fund totaling $20,000. Art scholarships were awarded to three Delaware County high school senior art students by Delaware County Probate/Juvenile Court Judge David Hejmanowski.

“I’m continually impressed by the teenagers of this county and what they accomplish,” he said.

First place went to Robin McMaster, Olentangy Berlin High School. Second place was awarded to Victoria Cruz, Olentangy Berlin High School. The third-place winner was Ari Gaub, Olentangy Liberty High School.

The scholarship program is what drives all the volunteers.

“After all, it’s why we are who we are,” said Mark Hardymon, president of the festival committee.

Starting the festival, The Capital City Pipes and Drums, wearing traditional plaid kilts, treated festival visitors to music of the Scottish Highland while marching north on Sandusky Street, then back south. Sunshine and 80-degree weather brought out many central Ohio visitors.

“All of our children loved getting henna tattoos and their faces painted. We all had fun browsing the many booths,” said Kate Gordon of Powell.

The exhibitors were pleased with visitor turnout and sales.

“There was such a big variety of handcrafted items, something for everyone and all of it quality merchandise,” said Charlotte Carleton of Delaware.

A new addition to the festival was the shuttle service provided by Delaware County Transit. Pick up was behind the Delaware County Courthouse on Union Street with drop off at William and Sandusky streets. The company said there were about 200 riders and plan on coming back next year.

To make this event a reality, many volunteers arrived at 5 a.m. on May 14. The Delaware Police Department closed Sandusky Street from Central Avenue to Spring Street, East and West Winter streets and placed street barriers throughout the downtown area. Volunteers put trash cans throughout, while two 20-by-20 tents were erected in the food court with tables and chairs. A stage and canopy were constructed opposite the food court. Electrical and water hookups for the fire department, food trucks and entertainment powered by a large generator were set in place.

Streets were marked for exhibitors’ booth locations, and a registration tent was set up. Exhibitor registration started at 6 a.m. along with the arrival of the food trucks. All was completed by 10-10:30 a.m. On Sunday evening, everything was taken down and gone by 7:30 p.m.

The Delaware Arts Festival Committee thanks all Delaware City departments for their hard work and patience. The committee also thanks each and every sponsor for their generous contributions and support. Without them, this event and the scholarships would not be possible.


By Dagmar Cianelli

Special to The Gazette

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