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Art in the Square a hands-on experience
Visitors get to take part, interact with arts at annual downtown festival
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Alfonso Bautista participates in the chalk art contest Saturday during Art in the Square in downtown Gainesville. Bautista was creating his version of the king of hearts. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Art in the Square

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Gainesville’s downtown square
Cost: Free
More info:

Every town, no matter how small, has its own unique art scene. It might just be one man or woman making painted birdhouses in their home to sell at the county fair, but if you take a close look at any community, you’ll find local artists who love what they do.

For the last 13 years, Art in the Square and Main Street Gainesville have worked to bring North Georgia artists together to showcase their work and connect with the community. All day Saturday and continuing today, more than 75 different art and craft vendors are displaying their wares on the Gainesville downtown square.

Event organizers this year shifted Art in the Square’s focus to improve visitor participation. By placing several inclusive events throughout the festival, passers-by had several chances to participate in making art of their own and get a personal look at how artists craft their work.

“We were really pushing the interactive side,” said Fox Gradin, Art in the Square director for the last three years. Gradin has been involved since its inception in the early 2000s, and says there is a growing interest in vendors and artists who encourage participation.

“We hope to expose people to art that the have never experienced before, in a fun environment,” Gradin said.

She explained that it was her hope that visitors to the event would be able to meet the artist and form a bond.

“They should be able to buy their art, hang it on the wall and be able to tell its story,” Gradin said.

It’s that special experience that sets Art in the Square apart from other festivals, she said. Throughout Saturday, visitors enjoyed live music and dance performances, open air painting and craft demonstrations, and sampled foods from a variety of establishments.

For most of the day, the main sidewalks on the square were roped off for the chalk art contest. The contest, open to all ages, was hosted by the Gainesville High School National Art’s Honor Society and judged by Mellow Mushroom artist Ben Boling.

Sarah Claussen, adviser for the Society, said the event is a great way for her students to get out in the community and interact with older artists. Her group manned the chalk art stations while another student provided caricature drawings. Many of Claussen’s students had paintings, photo prints and other crafted items for visitors to peruse and purchase, with proceeds to support the club.

“It’s important for them to get out there and see their work displayed,” Claussen said.

Georgia native painter Kip Ramey said he was pleasantly surprised by the turnout and the interest his work.

“It’s been a good day,” Ramey said, explaining that over the last few years he has experienced a drop in public interest for art events, which he attributes to the economy.

“It’s nice to see people come out for something that they don’t need, but are interested in anyway.”