September 15, 2014

Elyria
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Doin’ the Crawl

Elyria event shines spotlight on the community’s artists

ELYRIA — If they wanted to browse for art, or try to sell their own refurbished, hand-painted furniture, Sheila Rieger and daughter Toni Kruse would routinely travel east to craft shows and other events in Cuyahoga County.

“We did that for quite awhile,” said Rieger, sitting at a table on which she was fashioning a purse from a small wood box. “We used to do the craft show circuit.”

These days, the duo — who transform discarded and deteriorated pieces of furniture into handsome bedside tables, cabinets and benches sporting intricate hand-painted designs — are keeping busy right at home under the banner of Decorative Painting Partners in leased space at Claydog Pottery on Lowell Street.

Rieger and Kruse are among the artists beginning to learn that their creativity can be appreciated, and profitable, right at home.

Enter the 2007 Elyria Art Crawl, which invites the community to check out a smorgasbord of creativity and unbridled imagination all over town this weekend.

In only its second year, the event is demonstrating impressive growth. Designed to spread awareness of Elyria’s diverse arts community, the inaugural edition in 2006 drew between 300 and 500 people who took in the paintings, metal sculptures, jewelry, and other works of some 30 artists exhibited in eight locations around town.

This year’s Art Crawl will see works displayed by at least 45 artists in a dozen locations.

“All but a handful of them are Elyria people, and we’ll be (accepting) artists right up to the time of the event,” organizer Megan Rowe said. “It’s been about people willing to make commitments to host stops.”

Herself a painter-photographer among the artists in the two-day event, Rowe explained how people have readily come aboard for the second year. “Diana Santantonio of Psych and Psych Services saw one of our fliers and offered her place to us as an artists stop. It’s been things like that that have really helped.”

Because the event has no operating budget, it continues to rely on donations of money, space and time by area businesses.

“Art is our love, but it doesn’t sustain us,” Rowe said. “We all have day jobs.”

And unlike certain stuffy, juried art shows, the artists taking part in the Elyria Art Crawl are a cross-section of society. “Some are well-educated while others are largely self-taught, but all are highly qualified,” Rowe said.

Nancy Zak credits her love of sewing and an artistic welding class at Lorain County Community College with jump-starting her creative juices. These days the lively, enthusiastic lady produces a wide array of artwork, from intricately beaded rings to fused glass jewelry with woven beads to welded ironwork and coiled rebar that incorporates fused glass and brightly colored beads.

“Many artists say they draw on gardens for inspiration, but I prefer to think I’m creating pieces that give something back to those gardens,” Zak said.

One of her most fanciful pieces uses a street sweeper brush to create the look of a blooming flower. “I call it ‘Sweeping Beauty,’ ” Zak said. “I like to make people giggle.”

A number of Art Crawl artists, including Kruse and Rieger, have their handiwork on permanent display at the new Schoepfle Children’s Garden in the form of hand-painted horses for the park’s new carousel.

New to this year’s event will be Elyria High students and staff who will display their own artwork in the high school’s vocational education building.