10 years later, art still connecting people in Wichita

Written by Amy Palser

There’s just something about Autumn & Art at Bradley Fair that keeps artists like Edward Bartoszek coming back to show their work year after year. In fact, Bartoszek and a handful of other artists have been participating in the al fresco fine arts show since it started 10 years ago.

This year’s show is Sept. 13 to 15 at Bradley Fair Parkway. Admission is free to the public, thanks to presenting sponsor Fidelity Bank, as well as other sponsors and patrons.

“One of the best things about it is the size,” said Bartoszek, who lives in Mission, Kansas. “It’s just the right amount of artists.”

The “right amount” is by careful design, said Teri Mott, director of marketing and communication at Wichita Festivals, Inc., the nonprofit organization that produces Autumn & Art. “We started in 2010 with about 60 artists. Now as it has grown, we like to cap it at around 100 artists. We like that boutique, walkable size.”

Artists must apply and be selected for the juried show. This year 100 artists from 19 states will show their one-of-a-kind pieces, including jewelry, photography, painting, ceramics, sculpture, metalwork, drawing, fiber, glass and woodworking. Veteran visitors to the show will no doubt recognize Bartoszek’s colorful and playful air-brushed acrylic illustrations that depict things like houses, cityscapes, dogs, tacos and even the lovable “pink slime.”

Bartoszek said the winding, tree-lined Bradley Fair Parkway with its nearby lake is an ideal setting for the art show. But part of what makes Autumn & Art so great, he insists, is the competence of the event planners. “They just run it really well,” he said. “They are very consistent, and they had studied it really well before they ever started.”

Photographer Randal Napier has made the 742-mile trek from Grafton, North Dakota, each year since the event’s debut to show and sell his wildlife photography. It’s the only show he’s consistently participated in for a decade, and the credit goes to the organizers, he said. “I’ve done shows for 20 years, and there are shows you go to and you’re given your booth location and you never see anyone from the show again. This show, they go above and beyond to make it a nice event for the artists. It’s very artist friendly. I really don’t know what they could do to do a better job, and that’s just the absolute truth.”

Napier’s bold wildlife photographs, like his “Red-Eyed Tree Frog,” are a favorite among show visitors. He’s also branched into prints of vintage fishing and hunting scenes, which he shoots in his studio. After showing his art in Wichita for 10 years running, Napier said he has folks who stop into his booth each year just to say hi or to pick up a new print to add to their Napier collection. “The people of Wichita are always great,” he said.

Mott said being able to talk to the artists about their work is one of the best things about Autumn & Art. “Discussing their inspirations and processes is so rewarding. I know many art collectors who have purchased works after learning more about the piece from the artist.”

While the structure of Autumn & Art has remained the same over the last decade, Mott said a few things have changed — for the better. Thanks to evolutions in state law, the show is now designated a Temporary Entertainment District, which means attendees can purchase and enjoy wine and beer as they walk through the festival.

Over the years, organizers have grown family-friendly programming, which they dub “art-themed family fun,” and have expanded the show’s entertainment options. “We now have entertainment throughout the weekend,” Mott said. “There will be jazz musicians, theater performances, exhibitions of dance, and art demonstrations. We’ll have a variety of acts performing hourly throughout the festival.”

Amy Liebau, COO at Laham Development, which owns Bradley Fair, is pleased with the way the Wichita community has embraced Autumn & Art, as they have with other events at Bradley Fair. “They are a key reason that it has grown from 60 artists and 10,000 attendees to 100 artists and over 30,000 attendees,” she said.

Mott said the event is the result of “a wonderful 10-year partnership between Wichita Festivals; our host, Bradley Fair; and our presenting sponsor, Fidelity Bank, which has played an integral role in Autumn & Art since the event’s inception.”

“As ardent supporters of the arts, we are proud to champion cultural events that contribute to the vibrancy of our hometown,” said Katie Grover, senior vice president of marketing at Fidelity Bank. “Art is a powerful connecting point for people. That’s what Autumn & Art is all about — bringing together artists from across the nation with volunteers, attendees and partners in a shared celebration of the creative spirit that makes our community special.”

Autumn & Art at Bradley Fair

Bradley Fair Parkway, just east of Bradley Fair at Rock Road and 21st Street
Admission is free to the public
Friday, Sept. 13, 6–9 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 14, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 15, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

Be part of the lavish Patron Party from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 13. Enjoy gourmet food, specialty wine and spirits, wine and whiskey pulls, coffee bar, live entertainment by Uptown Violins and Ballet Wichita, and patron gifts. Patrons also enjoy reserved parking and complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks throughout the weekend. Patron Passes are $140 and can be purchased at autumnandart.com.

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