(September 2016) – Several changes have been made during the past year in planning for the Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art since co-coordinators Amy Fischmer and Jenny Straub took over for long-time coordinator Georgie Kelly, who retired in December. Patrons may notice a few new “looks” to the festival and some surprise additional attractions when they arrive at the Madison, Ind., riverfront on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 24-25. The new coordinators presented their ideas and plans to the VisitMadison Inc. board in August, along with a bright outlook on building back the number of artist exhibitors in the 46th annual show.
Exhibitors offer all sorts of arts and crafts and jewelry on the streets of downtown Madison each September for the Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art. More than 200 exhibitors already are registered for this year’s event, organizers say.
During the Aug. 22 tourism board meeting, Fischmer and Straub reported that they have signed on 75 new artists “and the number is still growing.” Straub said a full show is 250 exhibitors, however the Chautauqua has not had that many exhibitors in several years. Their goal this year is for 225 exhibitors, which would be significantly up from the low of 180 who showed up last year. At press time, the list of exhibitors was at 211.
There is certainly something for everyone the last weekend of September in downtown Madison.
More than 300 volunteers from dozens of local civic groups help put on the show, doing everything from parking cars to picking up trash and manning information booths. Organizers estimate that the juried art show annually attracts an estimated 65,000 people to Madison over the two-day event. Merchants also benefit, as do area restaurants and hotels. This year, a Hanover College marketing class plans to conduct an overall business impact evaluation of the show at no cost to the committee.
The new coordinators reported that the Chautauqua has a new Internet website this year that is “up and running.” New events include a “Chalk Walk” and pop-up skits to be performed throughout the festival grounds by Madison Consolidated High School drama students. The Chalk Walk will take place near Elm and First streets in a space previously used for exhibitor booths. This year, the exhibitors who previously were located on Elm Street from First to Second streets have been moved and incorporated into other areas of the show footprint.
The Chalk Walk is open to anyone for a $10 fee, which covers the 45-count chalk pastels to be used to create artworks on a 4x6-foot area of pavement. The event is planned to take place all day Saturday only, rain or shine. Judging will take place at 5 p.m., said Kara Schafer, a new Chautauqua Committee member. The first three places will receive a combination of Chautauqua T-shirts and signed posters.
The idea for the Chalk Walk came from the fact that “there are quite a few of them held at various festivals,” Schafer said. “The big one in Fort Wayne sells out every year. We thought it would be fun.”
There will also be a new Demonstration Village this year at show featuring Ojibwa Dancers, a Miami teepee village with demonstrations, a blacksmith, leatherworker, chainsaw artist and a silhouette cutter. The Demonstration Village will be located in the parking lot just south of the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center on Vine Street. The village was approved as an Indiana Bicentennial Legacy Project.
In addition to a poster artist, this year the committee held an inaugural contest to select artwork for its T-shirts and sweatshirts. A handful of artists submitted artwork for consideration, and new Madison resident, Paula Honeycutt, won. She collected $250 for creating the winning design. The T-shirts and sweatshirts are available for purchase at the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center at 601 W. First St. and at the Information Tent on Broadway during the show.
For the first time, the Chautauqua Committee has created a “Local Artists Tent” at Booth No. 908 to feature 10 local artists at the show. They will display and sell a variety of artwork in various media. Artists applied for the opportunity and were selected through a juried process, Fischmer said.
“The Madison Chautauqua really wanted to bring more of our local artists into the festival,” she said. “However, we recognized they are not all festival artists with enough work to fill an entire space themselves. We hope that offering a space for them to share will allow for each to gain exposure and give them an opportunity to sell.”
She said the committee hopes the idea will grow in the coming years to a point where some of the artists would be able to have their own booths at the show. This year, only seven of the 211 show exhibitors are from Madison and neighboring counties.
Another change is the date of the artist poster signing and “reveal.” Chautauqua committee members announced this year’s poster artist, Linda Wood of Madison, and “revealed” the painting to the community on Sept. 14. A poster signing is planned from 5-7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, on Chautauqua Weekend at Harry’s Stone Grill, located on the Madison hilltop at 621 Clifty Dr. Harry’s Stone Grill is a poster sponsor. The price remains $45 per signed poster, with a limit of four. In previous years, the poster signing was always held a couple of weeks before the festival.
Yet another change coming next year will be moving the dates of Chautauqua to one week later on the calendar so that the show remains a week ahead of Louisville’s St. James Court Art Fair. The 2017 Chautauqua will be held Sept. 30-Oct. 1, Straub said, to accommodate exhibitors who travel far to be in both shows on back-to-back weekends.
“It has happened before but not very often that we have moved the show to remain one week ahead of St. James,” Straub said. “It’s not a permanent thing.”
In addition to the Chautauqua juried art show, the weekend offers other events throughout the downtown. These include the Pilot Club of Madison’s Fall Old Court Days, from Friday to Sunday around the Jefferson County Courthouse, on Jefferson Street and in the Second Street parking lot; Lanthier Winery’s Harvest Celebration Festival on Saturday and Sunday at the winery at 123 Mill St.; the Fair Play Fire Dept. No. 1’s fish fry at the firehouse at 405 E. Main St.; and the Friends of the Library Book Sale from Thursday through Sunday at the Jefferson County Public Library’s auditorium at 420 W. Main St.
• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email: info@RoundAbout.bz.
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