By G. Michael Dobbs
NORTHAMPTON - The Paradise City Arts Festival may be the third highest rated arts fair in the nation, according to the readers of American Style magazine, and its highly acclaimed artists come from 30 states, but you don't have to be an art collector with a big budget to enjoy the show.
Linda Post, the founding director of the arts festival, explained to Reminder Publications, the show is designed for everyone to enjoy.
"What you would spend to watch a two-hour movie, you can have an entire day and see things you've never seen before," she said.
Admission for adults is $12, but on the festival's website (www.paradisecityarts.com) there is a $2 off coupon. Seniors are $10, students are $8 and children age 12 and younger are free.
"We try to make it affordable and try to make it fun," she said.
The 260 participating artists bring work that ranges from intricate and very realistic wood sculptures of birds to hand-made furniture and jewelry to innovative ceramics.
The diversity of the work "appeals to the serious collector, but also to imaginative shoppers," Post said.
She added there is also diversity in prices, noting, "There are lots of things are quite affordable."
Among those artists are many from Western Massachusetts, including Lori Mader from Wilbraham, Joe Peters of Chicopee, Jeffrey Waldron and Cherry Lemon of Granby and Angela Gerhard and Pat Hayes of Holyoke.
At every show, artists are asked to bring work that meets a theme Post has developed and this year the theme is "Wild Things!" This collection of art features animal imagery in clay, glass, jewelry, furniture, painting, sculpture, wood, metal and fiber.
Post said the theme "encourages the artists to push the envelope and encourages their creativity."
The animal theme will be carried to the annual charity silent auction with the proceeds this year going to Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society. Post said that during the festival's life, $300,000 has been contributed to area non-profits.
The festival is far more than just a marketplace, Post noted. The festival's dining tent will have a New Orleans theme with Cajun specialties from local restaurants being offered. Free musical performances by jazz headliner Samira Evans, New Orleans jazz by North of Dixieland and saxophonist Charles Neville of the acclaimed musical family The Neville Brothers are included in the admission.
There are also children's activities by Museums10 of Deerfield, craft demonstrations and daily workshops by artist James Kitchen on "Creating Art from Recycled Metal." Kitchen's sculptures are currently installed in downtown Springfield.
The Paradise City Arts Festival will be May 26 to 28 at the Three County Fairgrounds in Northampton. The event will be presented rain or shine as all of the exhibits are either indoors or under tents. Parking is free.
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