Watermark Art Festival to Unveil New Additions for 54th Annual Event – Bemidji Pioneer

ByJames I. Robertson

Jul 9, 2022

BEMIDJI – Big changes are in store for this year’s Watermark Art Festival, formerly known as Art in the Park, as artists from across the state come together to exhibit their work for one of the events the most anticipated of the summer.

Held along the shores of Lake Bemidji for 54 years, the two-day fine arts and crafts festival attracts thousands of visitors to downtown Bemidji each year.

The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 16 and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, July 17 at Library Park and across the street from the Watermark Art Center, 505 Bemidji Ave . NOT.

According to Watermark Executive Director Lori Forshee-Donnay, the event’s former name didn’t quite fit the theme this year, as the board, volunteers and community sponsors expanded one of the the most popular events in the region.

“We kind of considered rebranding because there’s so much more going on than in previous years, it was a golden opportunity to take (this event) to the next level,” Forshee-Donnay explained. “The word ‘festival’ fits perfectly with what we do and the evolution of this event. We wanted people to know this is our event by putting the name in the title.

As the highlight of the summer for Minnesota natives and tourists since 1967, it’s also one of the biggest fundraisers for the Watermark Art Center and a great opportunity to support creators.

“The festival is something that fulfills our mission by providing people with access to the visual arts and supporting artists,” Forshee-Donnay said. “A lot of artists do it because they love it, and others do it because it’s a big part of their way of making a living. It’s a great opportunity for people to buy directly from artists and I think that’s why it’s so exciting, they can meet the creators.

Besides bringing an extra buzz to downtown Bemidji, Forshee-Donnay also described the festival as a reunion, a chance to catch up with old friends, neighbors and longtime veterans of the event.

Festival-goers walk through Art in the Park on July 17, 2021, in Bemidji Library Park.

(Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

“It’s just a perfect lakeside setting near trees and water that provides a unique setting and brings a lot of people into the community for this weekend,” she said. “We see a lot of local community members coming every year, they’re really loyal to that. It’s a great opportunity for them to bond with neighbors and it’s like a small get-together for some people.

Part of the event upgrade includes two different music stages, one in Library Park and one outside Watermark, just across the street, for live music performances on Saturdays and the Sunday.

“We’re setting up a big tent with seating right next to one of the music stages so people have a chance to grab a bite to eat, relax, and listen to music,” Forshee-Donnay said. “Then we have the north side food court again with more vendors and food trucks.”

Other tents, which will be available throughout the event, will be dedicated to demonstrations by artists who are part of the Watermark Art Center’s retail store, Shop 505, as well as a variety of hands-on activities for children. .

“Artists will alternate throughout the day showing off painting, beeding, stone carving, woodcarving and more,” Forshee-Donnay said. “We have also added more activities for children, there is a group that will do minnow races and other fun activities for families.”

Due to the expansion of events this year, the Watermark Art Center committee wanted to make sure that people looking for information about the art center, the event, a certain booth or an artist could easily find direction at the information booth.

“We have upgraded our information booth as well as wayfinding signage throughout the event,” said Forshee-Donnay. “We worked with a tech art and design professor and one of their students from (Bemidji State University) to make sure people know where amenities are and help them find everything what they need.”

One thing that remains the same, however, is that vendors sell a wide variety of items, including handcrafted woodwork, ceramics, clothing, jewelry, photography, metalwork, greeting cards , homemade preserves, soaps, stained glass, original paintings, garden art and more.

Shannon Lucas-Westrum chats with Art in the Park attendees about her work on July 17, 2021, in Bemidji Library Park.

(Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

According to Forshee-Donnay, one of the artists has been at the event for nearly 50 years, but they are always looking to bring new artists and offerings to the festival.

“It’s really fun to find new artists who are interested and bring them to our vendors, but we still have some favorites from last year who are also coming back and (the event goers) are going to find a bit of all this year,” she said. “From woodcarvings, clothing, beadwork and paintings, we also have aboriginal artists who will present contemporary and traditional works, it’s really exciting to see all the varieties.”

For more information, visit Watermark’s website at watermarkcenter.org, call (218) 444-7570, or email [email protected]

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