PIQUA — The threat of rain did not stop the local community from turning out to the annual Taste of the Arts Friday evening.
“It’s a great crowd already,” Cheryl Stiefel-Francis, chairperson forTaste of the Arts, said.
The event had a large crowd come early, filling up the downtown streets that were closed off before the rain finally hit.
“It’s great to see families together,” Stiefel-Francis said.
Stiefel-Francis has been the chairperson for the event for all of the 22 years it has been going on, and her favorite part about Taste of the Arts is “seeing all the people come together.” She added that Taste of the Arts is like a celebration of spring.
“We’re real happy with the early turnout,” Lorna Swisher, executive director of Mainstreet Piqua, said.
Swisher added that it was smooth setup during the day, which yielded much variety in artists, vendors, and food. “Our volunteers really stepped up … It’s good. It’s great,” she said.
“It’s my first time,” Linda Apple of Piqua said. Apple was at Taste of the Arts with her daughter and son-in-law, Robin and Gary Hughes.
“I wanted to make sure she got the experience,” Robin Hughes said, noting that she loves sampling the food and seeing people in the downtown.
“It’s nice to see the downtown with all the people walking around,” Hughes said, adding that the downtown was always busy when she was a kid.
Even after the rain arrived, it did not deter dedicated attendees, who continued to visit with the various artists and enjoy the wide array of food vendors underneath tents. From burger joints to pastry shops, food vendors included Mulligan’s Pub, Z’s Food and Spirits, 311 Drafthouse, Dobo’s Delights, Heritage Event Catering, Hickory River, Winan’s, Montage Cafe, Lee’s Chicken, Ulbrich’s Hometown Market, Cupcake Gallery, East of Chicago Pizza, and others.
A variety of artists were sheltered inside local shops. Mark McGraw of Artistic Earth Pottery in Troy was at the Apple Tree Gallery with a pottery wheel and display. He was showing his creations as well as demonstrating how to throw various pieces of pottery, such as plates and bowls.
McGraw got into pottery in 2014, when his wife, Amy, was looking for an activity they could do together. That led to them taking classes together at Muddy Hands Pottery in Troy. Their interest in pottery grew over the next year, as they got various pottery wheels and a kiln for their home in addition to creating a pottery studio in their basement.
“We ended up buying the whole pottery studio one year later (in May 2015),” McGraw said. Muddy Hands Pottery became Artistic Earth Pottery after the previous owner retired. McGraw said it was a big transition for them to go from taking lessons to purchasing the studio at which they had been originally learning.
“We’ve actually grown the business,” McGraw said. They started off their business with five weekly students; now they have over 30 students who come weekly. They also teach home school students who need art credits, and they have a Summer Kids Camp that will be starting in June.
Dennis Walker, a Piqua native and owner of Studio 446, a working glass-blowing studio on Weber Street, was inside the Second Story Gallery with a display of glass creations. Walker’s display also featured tools used in glass-blowing and videos of the process.
Artist Sue Teach had a display and demonstration inside Can’t Stop Running, showing the step-by-step process of making stained glass. The process begins with taking a pattern, like a Christmas wreath, and drawing it on the glass. Teach explained that the glass pieces needed to be cut with a glass cutter and the edges smoothed with a grinder. Copper tape is then put on the pieces, which will fuse and melt with the lead when the pieces are soldered together.
Teach, who has been making stained glass for about five years, said her favorite part of her craft was the end result, taking pieces of glass and turning them in various creations like Christmas tree ornaments, artistic window panes, and more.
Other artists included Luke Thoma, who displayed jewelry casting, and Sharon Stolzenberger, who showed watercolor portraits.
The event also featured a kids’ zone with activities like face-painting and COSI puzzles. Johanna Sloan of Piqua was with her kids trying out the puzzles Friday evening. This year was her first time coming to the Taste of the Arts.
“It seems like a good idea to get people out and moving,” Sloan said.
Reach reporter Sam Wildow at 9937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall