By Tanner Kent
The Free Press
MANKATO — Though it was accurate in the beginning, at some point the moniker “Goldsmiths’ Reunion” just wasn’t inclusive enough.
With the 10th edition of the annual GSR Fine Art Festival being held Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Verizon Wireless Center, the show has grown from a handful of goldsmiths and jewelers to more than 30 professional artists displaying a variety of handmade wares.
“We finally decided -- despite my attitude -- to put ‘fine art festival’ in the name,” said Patty Conlin, the good-humored owner of Stones Throw Art Gallery in St. Peter who originally created the event as a way to reunite with her apprentices.
“We have lots of artists, and lots of them come back every year.”
Sacha VanDeZande was one of Conlin’s first students. In high school, she was friends with Conlin’s daughter at Mankato West and a harbored a longtime fascination with rocks.
As a young girl, she peddled painted rocks to passersby near Carney Avenue where her parents lived. After graduating to rock tumbling and polishing, she was visiting her friend’s house when she got a peak inside Conlin’s studio.
“I saw her polishing and I saw her torch,” VanDeZande said. “It was so intriguing.”
VanDeZande is now a full-time jeweler (goldsmithdesigner.com) who creates custom pieces from precious metals and gemstones.
She also co-organizes the festival with Conlin and assists in the jurying process. To be accepted into the festival, artists must first apply and receive approval.
Conlin said the goal is to concentrate a relatively small number of highly skilled artists -- most of them with ties to south-central Minnesota -- in one place.
“This is a show for professional artists,” Conlin said. “There is some incredible art here.”
Participating artists vary widely in style and medium, to say the least.
Adama Sow creates colorful pottery that recall his West African roots. Natasha Poppe creates highly idiosyncratic ceramic sculpture and pottery that are at once whimsical and worldly.
Dick Graves is a watercolor painter known for rich, eye-popping hues while Daniel Hedblom creates intensely vibrant copper wall art.
There are bead and glass artists, fiber artists, a selection of photographers and eight jewelers. Live music will also be offered throughout the three-day event.
And best of all, Conlin and VanDeZande agreed, the festival still feels like a reunion.
“We really have grown to be a close-knit group,” VanDeZande said. “This is just a time for us to be joyful together.”