45th Annual Octagon Arts Festival fills Main Street with onlookers

Audra Kincart

Tents lined four blocks of Main Street as a streetful of onlookers gazed at a multitude of paintings, pottery, wood turnings and jewelry.

The 45th Annual Octagon Art Festival sponsored by the Octagon Center for the Arts, the Ames Commission on the Arts and the Iowa Arts Council took place Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We had more artists doing demonstrations of their craft this year, which was great for people to watch artists demo and ask them about the process,” Heather Johnson, director for the Octagon Center for the Arts, said.

Ninety-five vendors from 11 states were in attendance as well as 10 food vendors and live music by World Port, Andy Fleming, the Iowa State Dance Company Orchesis I, The 4Neys, Ace Jones and Fat Sky.

“Our motto is keeping the public in public art,” Natalie Carran, board member for the Ames Public Art Commission, said. “Our mission today is kind of our last push to get people to vote for the Ames Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition.”

The exhibit includes work around Ames such as the crushed gas can across the street from City Hall and a sculpture of birds in a tree located on Main Street.

Artists in attendance included ISU alumna Erin Carpenter.

Currently a ceramic artist, Carpenter graduated from Iowa State in 2008 with degrees in landscape architecture and environmental science. Carpenter began ceramic art when she took a pottery class for fun and fell in love.

“I’ve always loved art, [and] I didn’t think I’d be able to make a living doing art,” Carpenter said, “It started in a class once a week and then it became an extra day a week.”

Carpenter has been a full-time artist for a year now and has her studio outside of her home in Ames.

Veteran artists of the Octagon Arts Festival included metalsmith Cheri Schloerke, who has attended the festival for 29 years and is calling next year her last.

Schloerke has been doing art shows since receiving her masters in art in 1986.

“It was one way to release my creativity, I taught school while I was doing this for at least 25 years,” Schloerke said, “I have one woman I’ve made eight baby rattles for and each one has been different and they’ve been for her grandchildren.”

Other vendors came from out of state to participate in the Octagon Arts Festival.

One such vendor included Dave and Kathy Towley from Bemidji, Minnesota.

Dave, a wood turner for the past 40 years, and wife Kathy, a wood turner for the past six years, have been attending the Octagon Arts Festival for four years.

“It’s a great show. I love how people in Iowa appreciate art. They understand what it is,” Kathy said.

The Towleys had more success in one day of their first Octagon Arts Festival than an entire weekend at a festival closer to home, which is why they see this festival as “worth my while,” Kathy Towley said.

A total of 110 volunteers helped with the event, including Iowa State students and Octagon Center for the Arts members.

“I think supporting the arts in any way possible is really important, and this is a driving force behind the arts culture in this town,” said Nick Klein, member of the board of directors for the Octagon Center for the Arts and artist by trade.