By GARTH SNOW
The Covington Art Fair immerses neighboring retailers in the art community while helping those vendors earn the income that sustains that art.
That convergence of creativity and business marks its 27th consecutive year Saturday and Sunday, June 22 and 23. Covington Plaza shopping center is at 6382 W. Jefferson Blvd., Fort Wayne. The fair is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. There is no admission cost.
“The Covington Art Fair is one of the largest fine arts fairs in the region, featuring artwork of local, regional and national artists,” a representative said in a statement. “More than 90 artists will be on hand with one-of-a-kind artwork from every medium. The two-day event includes live jazz music and food trucks, and many of the plaza merchants will feature special items and demonstrations.” Upscale restaurants also line the perimeter.
“We really love the people,” said Lori Berndt, owner of The Olive Twist. Hundreds of people will wander just yards from the sea of art to sample and buy bottles of specialty olive oils at Berndt’s shop. “It’s really a great group of people who come to the art fair. They’re so relaxed, and hopefully they will be enjoying the beautiful weather.”
Kristy Jo Beber is one such artist. The Leo-based ceramic artist shows her work year-round at Orchard Gallery in Fort Wayne.
“This is how I make my living and how most of these artists make their livings, too,” Beber said. “Each year I do between 12 and 15 events, and like a lot of businesses these kind of wax and wane. You have a general idea of what you might do at a certain show in sales, but there are so many factors — the big one being the weather, of course, at outdoor events.”
“Each art fair I do is just part of a big picture,” she said of her livelihood. “To have a bad show here and there is to be expected. To have a string of them can have a big impact. As I am finishing glazing, hoping for clear skies for art fair weekends, it is rainy, windy, and unseasonably cold outside. Since my last outdoor event was canceled the second day, due to predicted incoming storms, my fingers are crossed for perfect weather Covington Art Fair weekend.”
Matt Breunig of Ossian and his wife, Tyler, will be back to display and sell the vintage-style pieces he creates. “The fair has been very successful for us in the past and we’ve had a lot of repeat customers after attending the first one,” Breunig said.
He describes himself as both a jeweler and an artist, with a focus on “upcycled art” — transforming everyday objects into unique jewelry. He said his works embrace the old coupled with the new. “I also do some organic castings with insects or lost objects, anything from crawdads and crabs to insects of all types, wasps, cicadas,” he said.
He said organizers arrange for artists to have “sandwiches, drinks, a place to sit down and cool off.”
“A lot of shows around the Midwest don’t provide that, so from an artist’s standpoint hats off to them as far as taking care of the people,” he said.
Beber has added to her already impressive inventory as the fair approaches. “There are lots of new pots,” she said last week. “Right now I’m in the middle of glazing and loading the kiln so they get fired tomorrow. I have pottery of all shapes and lots of wall pieces, too.”
Julie Eckert Clancy is the owner of Jophiel’s, which overlooks the southwest corner of the parking lot that once a year becomes an art fair.
“My favorite part of the art fair is engaging with the community in a larger way,” she said in an email. “Since the Covington Art Fair is the only plaza event, I look forward to seeing clients that we only get to interact with during the art fair.” She said this marks the 27th year of the Covington Art Fair and the 25th year for Jophiel’s. “When the community comes out to this event and shops in the plaza, the community is supporting creativity, hard work and originality,” she said.
She said the shop is fully staffed — “all hands on deck” — for the art fair. Like other shops, Jophiel’s uses the opportunity to set up a sidewalk sale.
“We love to have the artists in the store,” she said. “We love that they love our store because we love walking and shopping the artists’ displays.”
Berndt, of The Olive Twist, said she looks forward to the show and so does her husband, who comes out to work the show. “It’s fun to come out and mingle with the artists,” she said. “And we’ve actually benefited over the years because some of the artists have some things that are food-oriented.” Those items include wooden dipping bowls, pottery pieces for bread dipping, and wooden salad hands. “So we have actually partnered with them and carry their products,” she said.
“Art lovers, please do your sunshine dance and join us!” said Beber.