Visual Arts

You'll recognize this Mayfest

To keep an arts and crafts show fresh, things have to change. After fourteen years, the Mayfest arts and crafts show has tried a few new things. Some didn't turn out, and others evolved into different parts of the fair.

Last year, the organizers attempted something on a local level. Rather than being open to artists from across the country, the fair, sponsored by the Downtown Lexington Corp., was limited to Kentucky artists. That idea didn't make the cut this year.

”A lot of (artists) who've been with us from the beginning weren't able to participate last year,“ says Heather Ross, the assistant event coordinator. This year's Mayfest is again open to national fair artists. However, in looking over the artists list, one can hardly tell the difference. Only a handful of artists are from outside of Kentucky.

Regional artists from this year's selection include Louisville artists Bob and Marguerite Vonesh, whose handcrafted bead and wire jewelry includes select pieces of river glass, or antique glass, pulled from the Ohio River, that had been water-tumbled and frosted. Who knew a decades-old green Coke bottle could look this good?

Also of note is Lexington's Mark Zerof, whose equine photography shows a unique eye for capturing local vistas.

North Carolina artist Catherine Murphy strikes a visual chord with her metal garden art. Combining her love of nature with a mastery of welding and metalwork, Murphy creates sprightly copper works of butterflies and plant life that are as amusing as they are attractive.

Another change for this year is a new, family-oriented Demonstration Village. Interactivity has always been a part of the Mayfest experience, but this separate section of the fair allows attendees to be aware of a clearer location for actively working artists, permitting fairgoers to observe and, in some cases, participate in activities.

The only problem? These artists are the same ones from last year.

”There are six demonstrators at the village,“ Ross says. ”Some are the same as last year, but our jeweler, Jessica Mayes, was (categorized as) an exhibitor last year, not a demonstrator.“

Donna J. Williams, known as the Kentucky Broom Lady, again will be conducting workshops on traditional broom making. A sixth-generation broom maker, Williams will intrigue those who have never seen her, but for last year's attendees, it will be old hat.

That perfectly demonstrates the problem with this year's event. Mayfest, it seems, has come up against the typical lethargy of the fair world. As one of the first art fairs of the season, and coinciding with Mother's Day weekend, it gets a regular attendance. But by catering to the whims of its artists, rather than experimenting with ideas for its audience, it has become monotonous.

Nobody said Mayfest was aiming to out-Woodland the Woodland Art Fair. In fact, there is a great place for smaller craft fairs in the hearts and lives of budding artists and collectors. But nobody said the annual event had to be predictable or boring, either. Mayfest? Yeah, been there.