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The Art of Preparation

by and on July 13, 2013 2:02 PM

Every year the residents of the central Pennsylvania area and beyond wait with eager anticipation for Arts Fest.

What about the artists who must gather their chosen pieces — wood, painting, clay, ceramics, fabric or other — and pack them to travel to State College? When do they begin to plan for the festival?

To answer those questions I approached a few of the artists planning to show at Arts Fest by phone and email. One of the first to respond was Michael Mikula from Cleveland, Ohio, whose medium is glass. “Applications for shows are always on an art fair exhibitor’s mind. The best shows are juried and very competitive to win a spot in — including Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts (CPFA),” he said. “It’s a bit of a chess match, trying to calculate timing, moves and number of shows, sometimes as long as a year in advance.”

Mikula said that he received the top award at last year’s festival and along with prize money came an invitation to return for 2013.

“I gladly accepted,” he said. “It’s one of the top shows nationwide and I have a list of loyal patrons in the region, including John and Sue Heister of State College, who have hosted me for several years now. I think 1995 was my first year in the festival and I’ve been back seven or eight times since then.”

When it comes to preparation, Mikula was happy to explain.

“Preparations for a large show like CPFA begin months in advance, building an inventory of works and prepping display fixtures. Ultimately I bring whatever pieces are finished when it’s time to load up the van and I strive to have fresh designs every year. That typically includes a mix of one-of-a-kind sculptures from my ‘Architectural Blown Glass’ series and a selection of related blown glass vessels. It’s important to have a variety to satisfy a diverse audience typical in State College.”

Mikula also provided a few tips for the visitors at Arts Fest. He said that before visiting, you should make note of the colors in your home and have some measurements for those bare walls or niches that are crying out for art.

“Pictures on your smartphone are helpful also,” he said.

He reminded patrons to bring cash and checkbooks, as some vendors do not accept plastic.

Another artist who responded via email was Christine Bailey. Her husband is Wes Glebe of State College, whose medium is jewelry.

“Wes participated in the CPFA in 1968 (the second one) when he was a student at Penn State. In the years since, he has been an advisor to the Board and on various committees. Prior to again becoming a sidewalk artist in 2006, he and his wife were ‘art cops’ i.e. checking that the slides an artist sent in gave a good representation of the art work for the showing,” Bailey explained.

Bailey also said that Wes was awarded the John C. Mason Award for Jewelry at last year’s festival, so he was automatically invited to this year’s festival. “He has been busy making rings for the last few weeks so he has a good representation of his line which can be seen on He has over 900 designs of rings, primarily in titanium,” said Bailey.

Bailey started making jewelry in adult education classes at Penn State and had her own jewelry business for twelve years. She worked in Rare Books for almost 35 years at PSU and retired in 2006. She is the contact person with customers through emails these days, and is the computer guru in the day-to-day day running of the business.

So as you stroll along the corridors of vendors this week, remember that long hours of work and planning went into their displays and stop and say hello to the artists. Most artists said they are happy to explain their work and answer questions.

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Connie Cousins covers Centre County for the Gazette.
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