Allentown is often overlooked as a great city. Take a look around, and it has color and beauty everywhere. An artistic city, Allentown is home to a theater district and an art museum. But who wants to be inside as the last warm rays of the year are beating down?
Luckily, this weekend marked the sixth annual ArtsFest, a free, outdoor festival hosted in Cedar Beach Park organized by The Alternative Gallery, a local non-profit. Spanning three days, artists gathered from near and far to exhibit their talents in the perfect environment, transforming Cedar Beach into a bustling hub of creativity. “A unique mix of the fine and fringe arts,” according to the event’s brochure, ArtsFest has something for everyone.
While walking into the festivities, a designated area marked “Welcome Buskers” set the inclusive tone of this event, as buskers, musicians who perform in public for money, are usually not accepted. Street art was also given an opportunity to shine. Set up in the grass against the lake were large blank canvases, where graffiti artists could be seen in all stages of their processes. Some of the canvases were home to more traditional-looking graffiti art and styles. Others had faces so realistic they looked as if they were about to come right off the canvas. Watching the artists at their craft was almost mesmerizing. Seeing the idea evolve from where it started to how it ended up was a neat experience unique to ArtsFest.
There was so much to take part in. Interactive crafts and demos were sprinkled throughout the weekend to keep the attendees engaged. A small dance floor had kids showing off their best hip-hop moves. The tennis court was turned into a skatepark, with both open skate times and competitions. There were also improv and comedy sketches. A magician was performing for children and their parents.
For those curious about what the future may hold, Kathi was available to read tarot cards. This year marked her fourth at ArtsFest. Kathi asserts that she has always had a gift, being able to tell a good or bad person or annoying her mother as a girl by being able to identify who was calling before the phone was answered. However, she did not start reading tarot cards until she was twelve. After seeing them in a James Bond movie in the 70s, Kathi went to a new age store and bought her first deck of tarot cards. Initially using it as a party trick, she soon lost the fun of it. Even so, this gave her the idea to start a business. Kathi’s readings cover her customer’s lives six months to a year in the future.
“When I read the cards, I tell what I see,” responded Kathi when talking about the act of tarot. She owns 120 decks of tarot cards. When choosing a card, she picks “whichever one sings” to her. People who come to see her, Kathi recounted, either call her work dead accurate or a hoax. They also usually come in with some preconceived notion of whether they believe it or not.
Known mainly through word-of-mouth, Kathi has managed much success. She even has regulars who come frequently. Even so, she is not in it for the money.
“I believe in and enjoy what I do,” says Kathi. “I came to ArtsFest because tarot is art.”
Wandering around the park, the sounds of music could be heard drifting through the air. Live performances occurred constantly at three different venues and the busker stations. With different types of indie, punk, rock, grunge, pop and acoustic being performed, there were always new sounds to be discovered. While enjoying the music, event-goes could get a beer, refreshing lemonade or iced coffee to beat the heat. Or, if the afternoon hunger pangs were hitting, they could feel free to grab a bite to eat. From poutine to pie, the vendors had choices for both the sweet and savory tastes.
As expected at an art festival, paintings, pictures and the like were prominent. One vendor had hand-carved wooden signs. Another made pictures and symbols using bottle caps. One man could be seen spray painting onto a canvas based on a guide photo. The hand painted pictures came in all shapes and styles. Eye-catching colors showed scenes of fruit, landscapes, people and animals. Basically, anything imaginable was on display.
One such artist was Lillian Wunderly. This was her first year at ArtsFest, but she was at Art in the Park this past June. Wunderly started taking art seriously in high school. She got a degree in fine arts from Northampton Community College and is pursuing her masters from the Academy of Art in San Francisco through their online program.
When asked where she gets her inspiration, Lilly took a moment and then responded, “What do I want to do? I find that there are specific themes that speak to me.”
One day it may be farm animals, another day fruit. She just “feels it out.” It stems from everyday life. For example, she saw some beautiful peaches and decided that was what she wanted to draw that day.
Something new that Wunderly is trying out is painting over gemstones. She paints on one side and leaves the other side plain. Her mother gave her the idea to draw inspiration from the color of the gemstone and base the painting on that. The blue stone had an ocean scene and the pink one featured a space picture. They were beautiful and detailed, despite being on a small surface.
If one preferred to wear their art, there were plenty of neat rings, necklaces and bracelets. Some were plain and classy, while others could become statement pieces. One vendor had fallen cat whiskers in the jewelry. However, jewelry was not the only wearable art. Henna was available at one stand, while those wishing for something more permanent could get a tattoo just slightly further down the path.
While having many modern aspects, some parts of ArtsFest brought about bouts of nostalgia. One tent was home to retro video game consoles hooked up to old school television sets. Featuring games like NBA Jam and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, kids and adults alike could be found lounging in the shade enjoying the magic of video games. If one found vintage movies to be more desirable, Spiral Rewind was the vendor to check out. They have found ways to repurpose old VHS tapes. The tapes can be used to house succulents or displayed on a canvas. Spiral Rewind also creates notebooks using VHS sleeves.
ArtsFest is a condensed version of what The Alternative Gallery has going on all year. These highlights shouldn’t be missed. ArtsFest will be back at the end of September next year, so take note and make sure to check it out!