The Driftless Area Art Festival opens September 17 after a two-year COVID-related absence, again showcasing a wide cross-section of art from the Driftless area. Eighty-eight visual artists will bring paintings, drawings, sculptures and ceramics, jewelry, fiberglass artwork, wood and metal art, and multimedia.
The festival opened in 2004 in Ferryville as the Crawford County Art Festival. Since then it has grown, moving to Soldiers Grove and expanding its umbrella to include artists and art lovers from across the Driftless region, the land never touched by glaciers, including parts of Minnesota , Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. The events brought together up to 80 performers and drew crowds of over 5,000 people.
Some artists return after many years, including one who has been part of the Festival since its inception. Kay Campbell, a ceramic artist, creates pieces that are both artistic and functional. She is also a guest teacher at area high schools and works with individual children at her studio on Davenport Road outside of Ferryville. “It’s not enough to make my own creation,” she said. “I like to share the fun with the children.”
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In addition to preparing her tent each year for the Festival, Kay has been organizing culinary arts to enjoy since 2004, including two vendors who have been with the Festival since its beginning in 2004. Crêpes Jeanluc will offer ham, cheese and spinach crêpes, as well as dessert pancakes and cookies. Apple’licious Pie Depot will feature its popular pies, ice cream, apple fritters, turnovers and apple pizzas.
At Julie’s Catering, hungry festival goers can find pulled pork, Italian beef and Italian sausage sandwiches and chicken wraps. Capelle’s Cuisine will serve pineapple boats, Chicago-style hot dogs, portabella melt steaks, fried artichokes and fresh-cut fries. The Five-Star Eggroll menu includes Spring Rolls, Sesame Chicken, Wontons, Lo Mein and Fried Rice. Dave’s Pizza will serve a variety of pizzas as well as breadsticks. And Vera’s Snack Shack will have chicken nuggets, mega loaded nachos, shrimp, fries, and cheese curds.
Kelly’s Coffee will offer iced brewed coffees, rolls, cookies and rolls. Several vendors will also sell lemonade and other soft drinks, and the Soldiers Grove Lions Club will sell beer and wine.
And the performing arts tent will feature some familiar faces and a few newcomers. Saturday’s lineup includes Sophia Landis, Patchouli and Acoustic DOGS Sunday’s bands are Kickapoo Joy Juice and Lou Shields.
The Festival is also aimed at young art lovers. The Youth Art Tent will feature drawings, paintings and multimedia works by children aged 5 through secondary school. In the KidsArt Gallery, blue ribbons and silver prizes will be awarded in three categories. The Teen Art Gallery will also feature Blue Ribbon winning pieces, which will win cash prizes of $75, $50 and $25.
In the youth art tent, children of all ages can paint and create, decorate piggy banks and sit down to have their faces painted.
And they will be able to award “My Favorite Artist” certificates, either in the Youth Art Tent or by visiting the tents of professional artists.
The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, September 17 and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, September 18. Admission is free and there are plenty of free parking spaces available.
Festival partners include Community Development Alternatives, Inc., Peoples State Bank, Village of Soldiers Grove and Soldiers Grove Community Development Corporation, Wisconsin Public Radio La Crosse, Wisconsin, and Richland Hospital and Clinics. A full list of benefactors, patrons and supporters, as well as full Festival details, can be found at driftlessareaartfestival.com and on the Festival’s Facebook page.