What to see -- and hear -- at Glen Ellyn Festival of the Arts
Joanne Barsanti tries to explain her pictures: "It's photography that doesn't look like photography."
"You really have to see it in person," Barsanti said.
Barsanti isn't brushing off questions. Despite her best effort to describe a complicated process from camera to frame, Barsanti says that to really appreciate her skill -- and that of more than 80 other artists -- take a stroll through the Glen Ellyn Festival of the Arts on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 22 and 23, at Maryknoll Park, 845 Pershing Ave., Glen Ellyn.
"There's so much inspiration there," she said.
The intimate size of the juried art show lets fans learn what inspires artists, what techniques they use. The professionals will be arranged in a grid pattern in booths, a friendly group that welcomes conversations, organizers say.
"I really enjoy meeting all the different artists," said Randy Poole, the festival's co-chairman. "They are a unique, eclectic group of people. Artists are obviously very creative in nature and they all have really interesting stories."
That atmosphere is so important that organizers cap the number of artists at 85, though more than 100 apply. Judges pick who gets into the selective show, a fundraiser for the Glen Ellyn Lions Club.
That atmosphere also is what keeps Barsanti coming back to the show each year, first as a customer and eventually earning her own booth.
"The goal is to get set up a little bit early Saturday morning," Barsanti said, and take a quick tour around.
Not to size up her competition -- awards will be announced Saturday -- but hopefully to squeeze in some time to reunite with old pals and marvel at their latest creations.
"The thing that I miss is being able to go around and see what the artists are doing," she said.
After she was laid off from a position in the tech industry in 2010, Barsanti briefly started job hunting. And then she heard her own voice.
When she talked about her job search, she sounded "just kind of monotone, very matter-of-fact."
"But then when I would start to talk about my photography, I would get very excited," Barsanti remembered. "I go, 'Wait a minute. I need to listen to myself and follow where my passion is.'"
A shutterbug by hobby, Barsanti realized that to become a professional and get accepted into art shows, she had to "up her game." That meant earning an associate degree in photography at the College of DuPage and finding a distinctive style.
"As artists, we're always looking for something unique, something that makes us stand apart," Barsanti said.
So she devised a process to print her photographs -- usually a serene, nature scene -- on Kozo, Japanese paper made from the mulberry plant. Then she learned an ancient tradition to crinkle the paper and break down the fibers so its feels like fabric -- another reason it should be seen in-person.
"It just adds more texture and depth to images," Barsanti said.
At the Glen Ellyn show, she will bring along some of her favorite images she's snapped at forest preserves near her Roselle home. Often, she focuses her lens on egrets and blue herons, the "elegant" birds.
"People just walk in my booth and say, 'It's so peaceful in here,'" she said.
All sorts of media will be represented at the festival -- pottery, paintings, photography -- created by artists from as far as Hawaii, Georgia and Arizona. And the pricing is just as varied.
"They're selling small candle holders all the way up to tables and larger pieces of furniture," Poole said.
New this year is the venue. The Lions Club started planning in the fall and, at the time, the Glen Ellyn Park District had planned a summer construction project to renovate the boathouse and spruce up the grounds at Lake Ellyn, the usual host for the art show.
Though the district still hasn't started the work, organizers relocated the show to Maryknoll. Poole said the setting may not be as picturesque, but offers a convenient location near Route 53, amenities for kids (miniature golf, for instance) and more parking.
Organizers hope to raise more than $10,000 through sponsorships, a raffle, beer garden sales and artist fees. The money will go the club's foundation, which provides eye exams, hearing screenings, eye glasses and hearing aids to low-income residents, among other programs.
Besides the visual arts, the show features performing artists over the festival's two days, expected to draw 2,000 to 3,000 people. On Saturday, Bassist Bill "The Buddha" Dickens, will lead a barefoot "dance on the lawn" from 4:30 to 6 p.m.
The laid-back event reminds Barsanti she made the right decision, to listen to her voice and share her craft.
"It's low-stress. It's fun to do," she said. "I feel like the people who come out support the arts."
If you goWhat: Glen Ellyn Festival of the Arts
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 22 and 23
Where: Maryknoll Park, 845 Pershing Ave., Glen Ellyn