Behind the Canvas
Apr 04, 2012 09:24AM
● By Mike
A Chat with AITS Chairwomen
The Southlake Women’s Club first presented Art in the Square (AITS) as a community fundraiser in 2000. After a dozen successful festivals, Art in the Square has risen in stature to become recognized as one of the nation’s best fine arts festivals. In 2012 hundreds of artists from across the globe applied to exhibit their art right in the heart of our city.
Based on over a decade of hard work, superior planning, and through the support of its generous sponsors the annual three day juried arts festival has raised more than $1,700,000 benefiting many charitable organizations in Northeast Tarrant County. Southlake Style got the chance to get behind the scenes with this year’s Chairwoman Samantha Munns and Co-Chair Monica Mainard as they, and the entirety of the Southlake Women’s Club, are extremely busy finalizing the food, fun and fine art that will be on display during this year’s Art in the Square, scheduled for April 27-29.
Southlake Style (SS): Congratulations on your recognition from the Art Fair Sourcebook as the #8 fine arts festival in the country. How did this all come about? How do you feel about it?
Samantha Munns (SM): Since 1993 the Art Fair Sourcebook has been the definitive guide to the best-juried art fairs in the United States. The publisher and art exhibitor himself, Greg Lawler, developed the book to be a comprehensive guide for his colleagues in their search for the top-selling shows to showcase their wares.
The book is written in the exhibitor’s point of view and includes survey data, annual critiques, and rankings from actual artists. Our reviews have improved greatly over the years where we had been in the top 100 for a while but to be thought of so highly now is an amazing honor. We are truly thrilled and very proud.
Monica Mainard (MM): This is also a great honor for our community and it says a lot about the charitable work of the Southlake Women’s Club (SWC). Despite being run completely by volunteers our show ranks amongst the best festivals in the country including professionally organized shows with paid staffs. Art in the Square is one of a very few festivals that is run strictly by volunteers with the goal to give all of the proceeds back to the community.
SS: How many volunteers and staff does it take to put on AITS? Can anyone volunteer?
SM: It definitely takes a community to raise this show! Generally speaking, we need 600 volunteers to ensure our three-day weekend runs smoothly. In addition to our committee members, their significant others, friends, and children we solicit help from just about anyone who is willing to roll up their sleeves. Area community groups and adult residents help us with tickets and food and beverage sales while local teens help us out in the Zone and Kids Korner.
MM: The more volunteers, the better and this year anyone looking to help out can sign up online right on our website. It is a great way for groups to work together in our community. We have several that help out each year, including a local troop of boy scouts who work very hard throughout the weekend collecting trash and keeping the grounds clean. We don’t know where we would be without them!
SS: There is definitely a lot to manage, when does the SWC start planning for Art in the Square?
MM: After a brief rest from the current year’s event each April, we jump right back into planning in June for the next year. Our Steering Committee meets over the summer to discuss any major changes for the following year, finds the chairs for the next event and determines budgets for each committee. We have 22 Committees in total and in addition to the individual committee meetings that take place, all the Chairs meet once a month from September through to April.
SS: Great planning has also been the hallmark of Southlake Town Square where AITS has been located from the very beginning. Please take us back to the first years when all of this started.
SM: Our first year was 2000, we had 40 artists and an estimated 25,000 people attended the weekend’s events. That year we raised about $40,000 for charities. Our club worked really hard that year, cooking food, hauling trash, and personally taking care of every facet of the show. Looking back makes us that much more appreciative of all of our volunteers!
MM: Fortunately, the economy was good and art sold. Many club members fondly recall watching painting after painting being carried off. The artists and attendees were very happy! Fortunately many of us were able to squeeze in time to walk the grounds and purchase some art from that first year. Those purchase are still proudly displayed in our homes today.
The next year was even more unbelievable as all of our numbers doubled. We had 80 artists, attracted about 40,000 attendees and raised close to $80,000 for charity! I think we knew then, we had found a great niche.
SS: What are your goals for this year’s AITS?
MM: Our goals are the same each year; to offer a great arts and cultural event to our community and to raise significant funds for area charities. Along the way we aim to improve Art in the Square each year as we continue to bring an appreciation of the arts to our community.
SS: One of the artists we’re excited to see is Stephen Sebastian, this year’s Artist of the Year. What stood out most about his work?
SM: Stephen Sebastian was chosen as artist of the year for his outstanding talent and skill as a painter. His work expresses, as he puts it, “a fluid realism that maintains visual structure” and it stood out from the rest of the artists for its excellence and refinement. His work is striking and impressive and it was the technique and tone that wowed the jury. He was selected unanimously.
SS: How many artists applied for the honor and how many will exhibit this year?
MM: This year we had nearly 700 artists apply to exhibit at our event. We had the task of narrowing that list down to just 145 artists that will exhibit in 2012. In addition we have also included four Emerging Artists. This category is juried separately and is open to artists in the DFW area looking to break into the art festival world.
SS: How far are artists willing to travel to exhibit in Southlake this year?
SM: Of all the exhibitors, only about a quarter of them are from Texas and only 8 hail from the Metroplex. So it goes without saying, the majority of artists travel a good distance to join us for Art in the Square. This year we even have several international artists who will make their way from Israel, England, Canada, and a few more that travel back and forth to homes in the Far East.
SS: Are there any long-time attendees and crowd favorites?
MM: We are privileged to say we have seven artists who have been with us since our very first year. They are part of the returning artists that make up about 55-60% of our exhibitors. So about 35-40% will be completely new to our show.
SS: There are also exhibits for young artists, tell us about Youth Art in the Square.
SM: Youth Art In The Square was created to offer high school art students the opportunity to experience what it is like to participate in an art festival. The students must submit artwork that goes through a jury process similar to that of the other artists. Each student selected to participate is also expected to work a shift in the youth art tent during Art in the Square. They have the choice to sell their art during the show or simply work in the tent. Last year AITS teamed with representative Kenny Marchant to select one young artist's work, from his district, to be sent to Washington to hang for a full year in the Capitol building. We are pleased to bring this back again in 2012. We will be accepting youth art entries through March 30, 2012.
SS: What should we look forward to in 2012? (New events, old favorites, etc.).
SM: In addition to the best in visual arts, Art in the Square will also offer a tremendous lineup of musicians and performing artists. As in years past, two stages will feature continuous entertainment. We’re still finalizing all of our entertainers, which will include TOP, a Dallas based entertainment group, Zack King who opened for Bon Jovi when he came to the American Airlines Center, and Casey Weston who was a finalist on NBC’s The Voice.
MM: A big favorite from last year, The King and Queen pub tent will be returning this year with an even larger seating area. Adults will be happy to know we have also been planning a larger selection of wine to be on hand this year. All of these can be paired with the wide variety of great foods from our vendors.
SM: There will also be lots of art-based children’s activities including face painting at the Cook Childrens’ Kids Korner and plenty of family friendly entertainment at the Gazebo stage. For older kids and ‘tweens’, Children’s Medical Center sponsors The Zone with its very popular bungee jump, rock climbing and bounce houses.
SS: With the support of the thousands of attendees and your generous sponsors you have been able to raise a lot of money. As a charitable organization where will the proceeds from this year’s event go?
SM: Yes, our sponsors are amazing and we are so thrilled so many return year after year. Because as fortunate as we are in this area, there are still many in need. For those who are interested, we’re still accepting sponsors. Unfortunately, our grant committee has received more applications than we will be able to fulfill. However, the many organizations we will be able to support again this year makes the event that much more special. All applicants will be notified shortly and those that are approved will be receiving funds over the summer once all the accounts from Art in the Square have been finalized.