Art in the Park returns to Garden City's Stevens Park

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram
Sister Rose Mary Stein, second from left, places a few drops of blue paint on a spinning paper plate Saturday while trying her hand at creating spin art at one of the children art booths during Art in the Park at Stevens Park.  Sompathana Phitsanoukahn, left, gives Stein advise on how to do the process while running the activity.  Thirty vendors and artists filled the park for the annual event, with 18 hands-on activities available for children and adults to participate in.

People filled Stevens Park Saturday as Art in the Park returned for the first time since 2019, after not being held in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Katie Guthrie, executive director of Garden City Arts, who hosts the event, said there was a great turnout and she was happy to see people out and about at the event. 

"I think everybody, after the last year, is ready for getting back into the community and this event celebrates art and the community, so it's really the perfect draw," she said. 

Thirty artists participated as vendors and 11 artists were part of the new Wanda's Corner, a section for emerging artists to showcase, and potentially sell, some of their work, Guthrie said. 

Wanda's Corner was put together in honor of the late Wanda Stallings, who died in 2019, Guthrie said. She was a local artist and long-time and founding member of Garden City Arts and pillar in the arts community. 

Pamela Stewart browses through birdhouses at a vendor's booth Saturday during Art in the Park at Stevens Park.

"People remember her for mentoring not only her peers but also younger artists and really encouraging them to explore art," she said. "We feel that this is not only going to be a celebration of her life, but just a continuation of all of the wonderful things that she did."

Guthrie said Sallings helped her a lot when she first started as executive director and is glad that they could do something to honor her memory. 

The idea to have a place to feature emerging artists came from several conversations with Stallings family, in particular her husband, Tom, Guthrie said. They kept coming back to how Sallings was a huge advocate for growing the arts and encouraging artists to put themselves out there and try. 

"We felt like this was the right path. It gave opportunity to artists who might not have the capability of having a booth in Art in the Park but still wanted to get themselves out there and start dabbling or getting their feet into being full-time artists," she said. 

One of the featured artists in Wanda's Corner this year was Genessa West. 

Genessa West, right, volunteers at one of Garden City Arts actvitiy booths Saturday at Art in the Park. West was one of the artists featured in Wanda's Corner during the event.

West has been doing art since she was young, starting as a child and continuing with it as she grew up and had a family. 

"It was the one thing that I found I could just be myself and I found a lot of other people like me, so it's just where I belonged and fit in," she said. 

Drawing and watercolor, focusing on details, has typically been West's main focus, however she has now started creating more abstract, acrylic painting.

"I got to be a perfectionistic about (drawing), I felt like it had to be perfect, so I found this more abstract acrylic painting just really freeing and really fun, just to play, seeing what happens and see what turns out, it's something new," she said.

West had one piece at Art in the Park, an acrylic painting titled "Sunset Garden".  

"It's kind of making a mess and seeing what happens," she said. "As the colors and the shapes start kind of coming together I like flowers and so I just kind of start making flowers of some kind and when it was done I felt like the bright yellow coming through was kind of like that setting sun feeling when it just really shines."

It was exciting to have a piece in Wanda's Corner, West said. One of her bucket list items is to have a full-booth at Art in the Park one day, so showing a piece and getting her name out there was a big step. It was a great opportunity. 

Ramona Vreeland said Art in the Park is a great event to connect the artists and the art appreciators. She was at the event representing her husband, Brian McCallum, at his booth. 

McCallum is a ceramic sculptor, functional pottery maker and a teacher at Garden City Community College for 18 years. 

"There's been a lot of customers that have found that special something that calls to them and that's always nice when that happens, because the nature of selling art is really to connect the artist and the art appreciator," she said. "It's always been a really great opportunity for people to come out and enjoy time with family, friends, nature, here at Stevens Park."

"Wanda's Corner" featured an area for emerging artists to display their work Saturday at Art in the Park in Stevens Park.  The area was in remembrance of local artist Wanda Stallings and new to this year's event.

Lauren Bendert attended the event with her mother, Donna Bendert, who was visiting from Michigan. She's been to Art in the Park in years past and enjoys it and what it offers the area.

"I think it's cool because you have a lot of opportunities to see different things and there's a lot of things that you can make and take home with you and kids always have a lot of fun doing it, so I think it's a really cool event," she said. 

Donna Bendert agrees. 

"It's a good set up, having children's things and then adult creative things and for the artists you've got all these people in the community that don't have a place to share their stuff, so this is perfect," she said. 

Jason Ryman likes how Art in the Park brings people together. 

"I think it does bring the community together, but it brings a lot of people from outside of town too, so we have a lot of people that come in and probably do some shopping while they're here, so I think it's a good draw for the whole area, not just Garden City," he said. 

Ryman enjoyed the variety at the event and seeing people come together after the pandemic.

Artist Darren Morawitz, who focuses on watercolor painting, had a booth at the event and was pleasantly surprised by how large and supportive Art in the Park was. He was happy to have people come by and see and purchase his work.

"It seems very supportive of the arts and I appreciate that," he said. "I think it helps me get eyes in front of my work, which is what every artists is trying to do usually. Also, it just allows the community, it's like a little less stressful environment than an art gallery, a little less professional, so get a wider ranger of people and gives them more appreciation for the arts."