Art fair draws large crowd

The Aaron Douglas Art Fair has been growing each year in number of artists, as well as the amount of people that show up to enjoy the festivities.

This is the sixth year the fair took place in the Aaron Douglas Art Park at the southwest corner of 12th and Lane, honoring the Topeka-born artist Aaron Douglas, who was known as “the father of African American art.”

Over 40 artists, musicians and performance artists were present last Saturday Sept. 24, including featured artists The Craftivists. They are a group of five women, three of whom met while working at the YWCA clinic. They describe themselves as a group of friends uniting crafts and activism by creating handmade goods. [they] craft for environmental responsibility, social justice, peace, love and the challenge of bettering the world with crafts.

This group of five women pride themselves in being creative feminists, who make art that allows them to express their opinions about important topics in inspiring ways.

For Nikki MacMillan, Sara O’Keeffe, Laura Burton, Michelle McCormick and Julie Velez, their mission is simple:  to rock the world into an understanding about important social and worldly causes through art culture.

“We really had a fabulous experience this year,” said MacMillan. “We love that the fair celebrates diversity and art, two things we feel passionately about.”

The Topeka Art Guild, an association of local artists was also present and featured a variety of mediums from a number of different artists.  The Guild has been in the Topeka community since 1916 and is a non-profit organization that operates in Fairlawn Plaza Mall. The group includes new artists, as well as more experienced ones and has something to offer for both.

Cynthia Stotlar, board president stressed how diverse the group is and encourages all artists to check them out.

“We have over 170 artists, and we have everything from glass to jewelry, to photography, to watercolor to oils,” said Stotlar. “We try to have a wide variety of different types of art.”

The guild also provides support to those artists who are trying to become full-time artist entrepeneurs by providing tips, workshops and monthly concept-themed shows which are optional to the artist. The work is usually displayed in each month’s First Friday Art Walk, and this month’s theme is “Kansans Painting Kansas.”

“We have people that are just starting out,” said Stotlar. “We also have more well known artists who are quite famous and have already got work at museums and The Chicago Art Institute. It really is a nice variety.”

In addition to these two groups of artists, there were many individuals as well.  Jennifer Somers, a photographer, featured a variety of photos taken from around Kansas.   Mary Constant, a junior Seaman High School student, had pottery, paintings and drawings on display. Julius Trotter, a Topeka native, displayed acrylic and charcoal drawings.

In addition to tangible art, there were three musical artists that played: Good Ambition, Slow Ya Roll and Brail.  Karen Hiller, Chair on the Aaron Douglas Art Fair Committee, told the history of the mural. Mariama Hodari, Aaron Douglas’s own neice, told her family history and Cyrene Holt, another niece, did a reading as well.

For a complete list of artists who were present at this year’s Aaron Douglas Art Fair, visit their web site at