Last year’s art show was bigger than the year before. And this year is bigger than last year. Organizers couldn’t be happier.
“We’re so pleased,” said Cindy Woodbury, executive director of Main Street Ottumwa, the sponsor of Walk on Art Street.
She said the reason an organization promoting downtown Ottumwa would have such an event is to show people the potential of the city’s center.
“We like to see people excited about coming downtown,” she said. “It shows them that downtown is a good place to own a building, to live, work and shop.”
Even Saturday, event visitors were eating, listening to music and shopping.
“I think this is a magnificent event for Ottumwa,” said JoAnn Wegner of Ottumwa.
She was at the western end of the Third Street event, which had around 65 booths set up.
“And what a beautiful day to enjoy art,” she added.
That was one of the first things visitors mentioned. Despite a summer of high temperatures and uncomfortable humidity — broken up by flooding and record rainfall — Saturday was clear and 70 degrees with humidity down around 42 percent.
“It’s good weather, and we wanted to check it out,” said Bernie Meisterburg of Melrose.
He and his wife Connie were strolling hand-in-hand along the eastern end of the show.
“We had to come to Ottumwa anyhow, and we’d heard about [Walk on Art Street],” she said.
Back on the western end, Wegner had made a purchase.
“What intrigued me about this booth was her use of color and her use of fabric,” said Wegner. “It’s very interesting.”
Artist Meg Prange of Russell ran the booth. She spent time chatting with browsers and working. As visitors browsed, she was stitching another piece of art, this one a custom commission.
“I like to stay busy,” she said.
Wegner found something she liked. She said even before her newest grandbaby made an appearance in the world, relatives had nicknamed the child “Turtle.” So the turtle fabric art, as well as the tiles with those turtle designs digitally applied, caught her attention.
While many of the artists at the Walk on Art Street worked in mediums like paint, clay or film, Prange’s work is a bit different. She creates background, subject and foreground from cloth, which she then sews together to create a work of art.
“I call them hand appliquéd fabric pictures,” she said.
Artist Billy Young’s pictures are taken with a camera. His focus, he said, is outdoor and nature photography. He had pictures of the world around him, from old barns to young eagles. His wife does the matting and framing of his photos.
“It’s a family thing for us, something we do as a couple,” he said.
And like most of the artists at the event, their work was for sale. Around 2 p.m. he said “business” was pretty good.
“It was slow this morning, but it’s picked up and we’ve done quite well in the last hour or two.”
Potential customers, he said, seem to spend the morning checking out all the booths, then start making more purchases after they’ve seen everything. Even browsers who aren’t buying are fun to visit with, he said.
“We had a lot of nice comments,” he said.
Some of those comments come from fellow artists. Young himself likes wandering around the event to see what his peers are doing.
Woodbury said the growth of the show is actually due to word of mouth.
“We have 10 artists more than last year, and they all were referred by other artists who had been here last year.”
As for visitors, it was hard to tell exactly how many showed up for the six-hour event.
“We’ve had a good flow all day,” said Tim Schwartz, a Main Street member. “I think they’re buying things. At least, I see people with packages.”
Oh, they’re buying all right, said Young.
“I know you don’t want to run it into the ground, but I really think a community this size could have a couple of these a year,” he said.