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Weathering The Storms Vendors, Music, Children’s Creations Keep Tradition In Artfest’s 12th Year

The whirligigs were hard to resist.

“Ooooh,” one kid said, pointing to the colorful flurries in the air. “That’s so cool.”

As hundreds of people wandered around the Cheney Cowles Museum grounds Saturday, many couldn’t help but check out the whirligigs spinning wildly in the wind.

They were there as part of ArtFest ‘97 - Spokane’s annual festival of art, food and music.

“It’s art in action,” said whirligig artist Fulton Toub. “Most people like the movement.”

Toub, who traveled from South Cle Elum for his first ArtFest, started making the garden accessories six years ago. His designs are unusual: Each whirligig is attached to an airplane, a whale, even two men playing golf.

As the wind blows, the entire piece moves in brilliant color.

“It’s nice to see people enjoy them,” said Lorna Toub, who paints her husband’s designs.

ArtFest crowds Saturday morning were blessed with sudden breaks of sunshine and warm temperatures.

The good weather came right before a massive thunderstorm Saturday afternoon.

On Friday, the first day of ArtFest, heavy rain sent visitors rushing back to their cars. As the Cheney Cowles grounds cleared, artists and vendors huddled beneath their tents, waiting anxiously for the downpour to end.

On Saturday morning, the scene was dramatically different. As toddlers danced or skipped to the strumming of a Celtic harp, their parents clapped their hands as they sat on green benches around the stage.

Nearby, dozens of excited children explored wood, paint and plastic beads at the “Make It Art!” booths.

“This is a tool,” sculptor Andrew Baucom said, circling his thumb in the air.

He then poked his finger in a squishy ball of gray clay to demonstrate his craft.

Nearby, more children went crazy splashing paint against a wall, drawing on the parking lot with colored chalk, and designing gifts for their parents with artificial flowers and copper wire.

Now in its 12th year, ArtFest is still a free event for the public. To keep it that way, organizers from the Cheney Cowles Museum and Spokane Art School obtain about $25,000 in donations from local people and businesses.

Another 300 people also volunteer to keep costs down.

“It’s a community festival,” said Jan Wigen, the museum’s development officer. “It’s a celebration of art - quality art.”

This year’s festival also received a record number of applications. Out of 217 artists who wanted space on the Cheney Cowles lawn, only 58 were chosen. Most hail from the Northwest, but one came from as far away as Arizona.

“This is great,” said Nam Mukai, who came to ArtFest with her sister, Martha Kaisaki.

As the two sipped coffee and looked around, they were surrounded by lilting music, the smell of hamburgers and booths filled with funky art.

“It’s nice to see people and their different ideas,” Kaisaki said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo


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